- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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First place? First place: Detroit has not been in first place this late in the season this century. By beating the rival Bears and with the Green Bay Packers losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions are rolling solo in first place at 6-3. With just two teams -- the Packers at 5-4 and the Philadelphia Eagles at 5-5 -- at .500 or better remaining on the Detroit schedule, the Lions have what appears to be a clear path to their first NFC North title. At worst, they should have their second playoff appearance in three seasons.
Even more impressive during this run to the top of the division is how Detroit has done it. There have been come-from-behind wins and games in which the Lions had to hold on. They have been balanced. This isn’t a team that only wins at home. The Lions have three of their six wins on the road -- only the third time in the past decade Detroit has won at least three road games (the other years being the 2011 playoff season and 2004, when the Lions went 6-10).
Return of the pressure: Detroit’s defensive line took advantage of a clearly hobbled Jay Cutler, hitting him 10 times and hitting Chicago quarterbacks 11 times in all. Defensive tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh hit the Chicago quarterbacks four times each and both had a sack. In all, five defensive linemen hit a Chicago quarterback on Sunday, with pressure coming from both the ends and the tackles. This is something the Lions have been missing the past few weeks.
Willie Young's point: The defensive end was clearly frustrated after the game with his roughing the passer penalty on Detroit’s first two-point conversion stop late in the fourth quarter.
Young’s argument on his penalty was that he was going for the ball as quarterback Josh McCown threw a millisecond earlier. Their helmets grazed each other, resulting in a helmet-to-helmet call he couldn’t really control. He argued it was more incidental than anything malicious.
"The players need to have a meeting after the season,” Young said. “We need to get that stuff straight. We need to sit down and talk about that thing, man, cause obviously we see guys getting tagged left and right all across the league.”
Young said he went up to McCown after the game and told him to go back and watch the play again to show he wasn’t trying to do anything malicious.
Open field tackling: Detroit’s defensive backs did a decent job making plays in the open field Sunday. Nickel back Don Carey made two open-field stops on receivers and cornerback Chris Houston had at least two as well. This was key as the Bears consistently tried to run outside with pitches against the Lions, who held Matt Forte to 33 yards rushing.