Somehow you just knew the NFC North wasn’t going to be decided with three or four weeks left in the season, and the Detroit Lions confirmed it for us in exactly the fashion we’ve come to expect from them.
To be fair, the conditions for the Eagles’ 34-20 victory over the Lions on Sunday were like something out of a Disney movie with the snow falling and piling up far faster than it could be blown off the field. But with a 14-0 lead with just under 20 minutes to play and then a 20-14 lead a minute into the fourth quarter, the Lions surrendered 20 unanswered points and threw the door wide open for the Bears to climb back into a first-place tie in the division with a victory Monday night over the Cowboys.
It is hard to say just how good the NFC East-leading Eagles are, but they held the Lions’ offense to just one 2-yard touchdown run from Joique Bell all day. The Lions’ other two scores came on punt return and kickoff return touchdowns from Jeremy Ross.
Of course, the Bears have the Eagles to worry about themselves in a couple of weeks, but all that matters now is if they do their jobs Monday night, they are tied for the division lead with just a losing tiebreaker to overcome with three games to play.
The difference between making up one game with three to play and two with four to play is like night and day.
If the Bears peek over their shoulders they’ll see all that hot air on their necks is coming from the Packers, who are actually in better shape than they are in the division race, just a half game behind the 7-6 Lions at 6-6-1.
Talk about staring into the abyss and fighting back, the Packers were down 21-10 at the half, and running back Eddie Lacy appeared to suffer a serious ankle injury on the final play of the half.
But as it turns out, it wasn’t quite as bad as it looked for the Pack. The Falcons’ second touchdown came after a sack and strip of Matt Flynn at his own 20-yard line, and the third score was a fluke 71-yard interception return.
The reality is the Green Bay defense played its most complete game of the season and shut out the Falcons in the second half, while Matt Flynn settled in at quarterback and brought his club back. For whatever reason, Flynn is a different and much better QB with the Packers than he is anywhere else.
Remember, the Packers were 6-6 in 2010 before winning out all the way through the Super Bowl. Will Aaron Rodgers be back next week?
The Packers close at Dallas, with Pittsburgh at home and then at Soldier Field.
And now the Bears are in a horse race, and a dogfight. They still probably need to win out to win the division. With Cleveland, Philly and the Packers left, it won’t be easy. But they now have a ton more control of their own destiny than they did going into Sunday.
Where is the best shot for the Lions’ loss the Bears still need? Probably next Monday night with the Ravens – also in a must-win situation in their own playoff chase – who’ve won three straight and four of their past five (the loss, of course, at Soldier Field) and will be coming to Ford Field.
After that, the Lions get the Giants at home and go to Minnesota the last day of the season, where it appears the Vikings will be without Adrian Peterson.
For what it’s worth, the last time the Lions won three straight was Weeks 14 through 16 of the 2011 season.
As for the Packers, the Bears have nothing to worry about. If they become the problem, the Bears can take care of them themselves on the final day of the season.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.