Detroit — For much of the 72-plus minutes of football at Ford Field Sunday, the Lions looked like they might find yet another strange way to lose this season.
Instead, the two faces of their franchise — wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford — made the biggest plays in the biggest moments to help the Lions (1-5) earn their first win of the season and end any speculation that 2015 could spiral into another winless season.
After a 57-yard pass from Stafford to Johnson, Lions kicker Matt Prater made a 27-yard field goal to give them a 37-34 win over the Chicago Bears (2-4) with 2 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in overtime of a game in which both teams — and possibly the officials — made several errors.
Stafford also threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Johnson with 21 seconds left to cap what appeared to be a fourth-quarter comeback on a day in which the Lions' offense finally made good on its potential, testing a suspect Bears secondary deep and creating eight passes of 20-plus yards.
"Heck yeah," Johnson said when asked if the aggressive passing attack felt more comfortable for him. "We're getting a win and making big plays. No doubt about it."
Johnson finished with six catches for 166 yards, including receptions of 57, 43 and 39 yards that were his three longest of the season. It was his best yardage output since Week 11 of 2013.
Stafford was 27 of 42 for 405 yards — his most yardage since throwing for 488 in Week 8 of 2013 — with four touchdowns and the one pick. He had a critical intentional grounding penalty on the touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, but an unnecessary roughness call on Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee, who hit Stafford low and late on the next play, minimized the damage Stafford's penalty.
Lance Moore had five catches for 106 yards. The Lions also had a season-high with 155 rushing yards.
A week after being benched for poor play, Stafford showed resiliency as he posted a passer rating of 117.7, the first time he's eclipsed 85 this season.
"(I) understood that for us to win," he said, "I've got to play better. And by no means did I play perfect, but played well enough to win."
And ultimately, the wins and losses are the only thing that matters. After sweeping them in 2013 and 2014, the Lions have now won five consecutive games against the Bears for the first time since 1971-73.
"The game was basically given to us, and we had a lot of opportunities to win that game," said Bears running back Matt Forte, whom the Lions held to 69 rushing yards on 24 carries.
Defensively, the Lions gave up 444 yards and allowed the Bears to drive to a game-tying, 29-yard field goal by Robbie Gould despite starting the final possession of regulation with just 21 seconds left.
Jay Cutler, who finished 26-of-41 for 353 yards with one touchdown and one interception, had completions of 25 and 24 yards to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on the desperate drive. A 20-yard pass interference against Lions cornerback Darius Slay helped move the Bears in scoring range, too.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell talks about the Lions' first win of the season.
Jeffery was excellent after missing the last four games, finishing with eight catches for 147 yards and a touchdown, but the Lions won so some of the errors don't sting as much.
Lions wide receiver Golden Tate's touchdown catch might be a hot topic for a couple days, but the score counted and contributed to the victory.
Late in the second quarter, Tate caught a 2-yard touchdown, but after his third step, Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller jarred the ball free, making it unclear if he completed the process of the catch. The original call on the field was an interception as Fuller poking it free gave Jonathan Anderson a chance to catch it in the end zone.
"(Tate) was standing upright," referee Walt Coleman told a pool reporter of the reversal. "It wasn't like he was going to the ground where he would have had to have held onto the ball."
Besides that and other shaky calls, the Lions overcame three second-half turnovers to take that late lead, giving the Bears the ball twice on punt returns with TJ Jones muffing one and Corey Fuller accidentally kicking another. Stafford threw an awful fourth-quarter interception, too.
Besides a 3:31 stretch in the second quarter, the Lions led for most of the game. The Bears scored 15 straight points in the fourth quarter to go ahead 31-24 with 7:50 left in regulation.
The Lions converted a fake punt — a 30-yard, direct-snap run by safety Isa Abdul-Quddus — on the ensuing drive, but conservatively settled for a 32-yard field goal by Prater — who was 3-for-3 in the game — with 2:46 left. Fortunately, the Lions' defense forced a three-and-out to give the team a chance to go ahead and eventually win.
"Typically, and particularly with a team that's gone through some of the adversity we've gone through, the tough thing is to battle back when things don't go your way," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "And I think the guys came together as a unit, as a group, as a team and did that a number of times. It's a good one to get. Now, we've got to get on with the next one."