CHICAGO – The Bears are 5-1 and sit atop the NFC North Division.
That much is indisputable.
The defense still rules the roost.
That much again was made abundantly clear Monday night at Soldier Field when a blue-collar unit being billed as the second coming of the “Monsters of the Midway” kept Detroit scoreless until late and limited Calvin Johnson to three catches for 34 yards.
Yes, that Calvin Johnson.
You know. “Megatron.”
The “Madden 2012” cover boy who had three times produced more than 100 yards of receiving before Monday night.
The same Calvin Johnson who was targeted all of nine times and whom Charles Tillman managed to keep in check despite being lined up in single coverage throughout the night.
So there was that. While the offense did just enough but that twice let the Lions off the hook rather than putting the game away early, the defense was well, the defense.
That much is indisputable.
But the Bears also got some help. OK, plenty of it.
The Lions fumbled six times, losing three. They dropped punts they had no business dropping. They fumbled on the 1-yard line while reaching hopelessly for the goal line, dropping the ball right in the lap of the Bears – or more specifically – Brian Urlacher.
They moved the ball, only to figure out how to stop executing once they got into a position to put some legitimate scoreboard pressure on the Bears.
Johnson, yes, the Lions’ top playmaker, dropped a ball in the middle of the field in the first quarter with no one within five yards of him.
So yes, the Lions played a hand in their own Monday night demise.
So just how much can you take from that?
Before you write Monday’s win off as it “just being the Lions,” consider this.
Playing their first game in 15 days and against an opponent that has fallen far short of the preseason expectations that called for them to be an offensive juggernaut, this could have been a dangerous trap game.
Instead, the Bears, who came into the game seeking their first NFC North win, did everything that was required of them to move on to Sunday’s game with lifeless Carolina still moving in the right direction.
Yes, there are still questions about Jay Cutler and whether the offense really has what it takes to make the Bears a true championship contender.
Yes, the defense again got tested in the waning moments when the Lions reached the 8-yard line before D.J. Moore intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass after Major Wright had dropped a sure thing in the end zone on a pass intended for, yes, Calvin Johnson, marking the third time the Lions turned the ball over inside the Red Zone.
But for now, this much is sure.
The Bears are 5-1. They hold a half-game lead over Minnesota in the division, and Version 2.0 of the Monsters of the Midway seem to be alive and well.
So far, that’s been enough.
Whether it’s enough to carry the Bears to an NFC championship will have to wait.
• Jeff Arnold is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.