CHICAGO | If you come across a crumpled up $5 bill on the curb, you don't walk on by expecting to find $10 on the next block.
The Bears had three choice opportunities to cash in against the Lions on Sunday in a huge NFC North showdown, but came away 21-19 losers, their playoff hopes taking more hits than slow-footed quarterback Jay Cutler did most of the day.
Cutler, back after missing one game with a groin injury, finished 21 of 40 passing for 250 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and a 69.8 QB rating.
But he was ineffective the second half, completing 9 of 22 throws for 102 yards.
Brandon Marshall, once again, was Cutler's most effective receiver, catching seven passes for 139 yards and two TDs.
The game's turning point came early in the fourth quarter, the Bears trailing 14-10, when Chris Conte took a Matthew Stafford interception 35 yards to the Lions 9, followed by Matt Forte's short touchdown run.
But wait. Holding on Bears' left guard Matt Slauson?
"I thought I was good and then I talked to the referee who threw the flag and he told me everything was good but I didn't pull my hand off in time," said a dejected Slauson. "When I play, I climb up on the backer and if I get out-leveraged, what I do is I club him and pull myself around.
"When I clubbed him, everything was good but I didn't pull my hand off in time. After talking with him, I agree with his call."
They say football is a game of seconds.
"Milli-seconds. If I had pulled my hand that quickly," said Slauson, snapping his fingers. "I would've been fine."
Slauson's gaffe moved the ball to the Detroit 19 and things only got worse for the Bears.
Cutler then found Alshon Jeffery in the right corner for a leaping, acrobatic 14-yard TD pass.
But wait. Upon review the touchdown was called back.
"I thought I had it but at the end, I knew I had bobbled it," said Jeffery, who finished with nine receptions for 114 yards. "Sometimes, you win those, sometimes you don't.
"It's a long season. It's the NFL. Anything can happen."
The Bears (5-4), losers in four of their last six games, also lost the tie-breaker with Detroit (6-3).
With the Bears ranked second in points scored and Detroit sixth, fans might've expected another shootout like in Game 3, won by the Lions 40-32.
Instead, the score was 7-7 at halftime with one Chicago drive stalling at the Detroit 27 and Cutler throwing an interception in the end zone, caught by Deandre Levy on a deflection.
An ankle injury forced Cutler out of the game with 2:18 remaining to play, giving way to backup Josh McCown.
McCown was ready.
He and Marshall hooked up for an 11-yard touchdown. On a failed two-point conversion pass, the Lions were flagged for pass interference, giving the Bears one last chance for the win.
But Matt Forte was stopped in his tracks by Detroit defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Game over.
"I got stuffed," Forte said, and not happy about it. "We just didn't move the ball enough (by) running it."
Detroit had 145 yards rushing, the Bears 38.