Jay Cutler threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Brandon Manumaleuna one play after a questionable call midway through the fourth quarter, lifting the Bears to a 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Referee Ed Hochuli flagged Ndamukong Suh for unnecessary roughness after he seemed to hit Cutler's shoulder pads, jolting him to the turf from behind when the quarterback was running downfield.
"I felt it was an unnecessary non-football act -- a blow to the back of the runner's helmet in the process of him going down," Hochuli said, adding the penalty didn't have anything to do with Cutler being a QB.
Instead of facing a second-and-2 from the Detroit 14, the Bears had a first down at the 7 and Cutler connected with Manumaleuna with 8:39 left.
The Bears, of course, thought Hochuli got it right.
"He put a forearm into the back of his head," Chicago running back Matt Forte said. "He should've been penalized for it."
The Lions were livid when the possibly pivotal call was made and were dumbfounded after the game.
"It wasn't like elbowing him down, it was pushing him down," Detroit cornerback Chris Houston said. "Then I saw the flag, I didn't know what it was until he said it."
Suh said he wasn't going to judge the flag.
"I really don't care what he called or if it was a penalty or not," the rookie defensive tackle said. "I'm just going out there to make a play."
Detroit lost its first game this season at Chicago, where Calvin Johnson appeared to catch a game-winning TD only to have the officials rule that he didn't complete the play.
"We've been getting some bad calls lately," Johnson said.
Like the opener, the Lions blew a lot of opportunities to take the game out of the officials' hands.
The biggest might've been early in the third quarter when Detroit had the ball at the Chicago 9 after recovering Cutler's fumble. The Lions gained just 2 yards and settled for a field goal and a 20-17 lead that ended up being their final points.
In the fourth quarter, Detroit had the ball at the Bears 41 only to turn the ball over on downs and at their 34 on its last drive before a sack led to a punt.
The NFC North-leading Bears (9-3) sealed the victory with a pass to Manumaleuna deep in Detroit territory, allowing them to run out the clock and keep a one-game lead in the division over the Green Bay Packers.
"We can't be satisfied with where we are right now," Cutler said.
Chicago can't be content with its slim lead in the NFC North because it closes the regular season against New England, at Minnesota, versus the New York Jets and at Green Bay.
The Lions (2-10) are relegated to playing for pride, as usual, after losing a season-high five straight and an NFL-record 19 within the division since the 1970 merger.
"I don't think any team has actually beaten us," defensive end Cliff Avail said. "I think we're beating ourselves."
Cutler finished 21 of 26 for 234 yards with a TD and no interceptions, along with making some plays with his feet.
"In games like this, you need your special players to be special," Chicago coach Lovie Smith. "Jay really stepped up."
Cutler usually does against Detroit.
He is 4-0 against the Lions as a Bear with nine TDs and only one interception. Cutler is 11-12 with 35 TDs and 35 interceptions for Chicago against the rest of the league.
Stanton, making just his second start in four years, played relatively well by completing 16 of 24 passes for 178 yards with a TD and a score on the ground that gave Detroit its first of four leads.
Jahvid Best had a 45-yard run that set up John son's go-ahead, 46-yard TD reception in the final minute of the first half.
Detroit not only had to overcome a team on a roll, but a lot of loud fans cheering for the Bears in the Motor City.
"We were ready to go to silent count if we needed to," Stanton said.
Lions offensive tackle Jeff Backus said it kind of felt like playing an away game at home against Chicago.
"That's what's going to happen when you're not winning ballgames and they're winning ballgames and they're a few hours away," Backus said.
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