DETROIT -- If you didn't know anything about football, you would have watched most of Sunday's game thinking the 3-7 Bears were the team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations and the 7-2 Lions were the ones who were rebuilding with a question mark at quarterback.
Then, the final five minutes at Ford Field unfolded, and the Bears crumpled like a wet paper bag.
Quarterback Justin Fields returned from a four-week absence and made the kind of plays the Lions could only dream of stopping. He tormented Detroit with his legs and made timely and precise throws with a "fresh" arm.
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The Bears' defense turned the Lions over four times, including a forced fumble on a kick-off return.
Everything went the Bears way Sunday until nothing did.
The Bears held a 12-point lead with five minutes to go and wound up losing 31-26.
It's the second straight year they've had the Lions on the ropes only to completely come undone in winning time.
The Bears are 3-8, and a meltdown of this level deserves some harsh truths. But there were undoubtedly some positives to take away from the first 55 minutes of Sunday's game in Detroit. We'll start there:
Fields' numbers won't light the world on fire. He finished the game 16-for-23 for 169 yards and one touchdown. But he made smart throws and didn't put the ball in harm's way. He overthrew DJ Moore for a deep touchdown early but came back and threw a strike on the same play a few quarters later for a 39-yard scoring strike.
"I told DJ I wasn't going to overthrow him again," Fields said after the loss.
He felt and looked fresh. There was no apparent rust from his four-game absence.
Fields played free and gave the Lions all they could handle. It's the type of game that can provide the staunch Fields believers with hope that he can still prove to be the long-term answer at quarterback.
I have no quarrels with that assessment of Sunday's game. He was good. He did what the Bears asked him to do. Had they not gotten conservative in the fourth quarter, Sunday could have been a statement win for the Fields-Matt Eberflus pairing.
All of that dissolved in five minutes. If we're handing out blame pie, the passing game gets crumbs, with an early overthrow of Moore and a late missed connection with Tyler Scott serving as the only blemishes.
Justin Fields GRADE: B+
TEAM GRADE: B
The Bears' rushing attack has been clicking of late. The return of Fields and running back Khalil Herbert were supposed to ignite the ground attack further.
Fields did his part, rushing for 104 yards on 18 carries, but Herbert and D'Onta Foreman struggled to gain traction against the Lions' front.
Foreman tried to gut through an ankle injury but left midway through after for 14 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Herbert found little room to work in his return, rushing for just 35 yards on 16 carries (2.2 yards per carry).
The Bears called Herbert's number on the game's key drive, but the back could not find daylight.
Up five with three minutes to play, the Bears needed two first downs to completely ice the game. Even one would have made it hard for the Lions to complete their comeback.
The Bears handed the ball to Herbert on first and second down for 1 yard. Fields' pass for Scott fell incomplete on third down after the receiver "misjudged" the pass. That pass doesn't happen if Herbert finds a way.
"I just got to make a play," Herbert said after the loss.
Team GRADE with Fields: B+
Team GRADE without Fields: D
Lions quarterback Jared Goff entered the game with just six interceptions all season.
He threw three Sunday against the Bears and could have had two more on his ledger if cornerback Jaylon Johnson held on to both his opportunities.
For 55 minutes, the Bears held Goff to under 150 yards, but the Lions quarterback racked up 107 yards and a touchdown in the final five minutes to stun the Bears.
Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown caught eight passes for 77 yards, but rookie tight end Sam LaPorta was held to just three catches for 18 yards.
It was a brilliant effort until it wasn't. As such, a mediocre mark is required.
The Bears entered the game with the NFL's No. 2 ranked run defense, and they looked the part at times.
The Lions didn't run the ball much Sunday, but they were able to find success when they did.
As a team, the Lions rushed 22 times for 115 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.
Former Bear David Montgomery ran for 76 yards and the game-winning touchdown to pace the Lions.
That the Lions ran the ball effectively even when down 12 with five minutes to play is a credit to their offensive line and a ding against the Bears' improved run defense.
Head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy seemed to have the hot hand early on. Eberflus rolled the dice on multiple fourth-down attempts and was successful.
But when the Bears needed bold decisions late in Detroit, Eberflus opted to take the ball out of Fields' hands and played conservatively.
It cost the Bears.
NFL teams are 27-3 this season when owning a plus-three turnover margin. The Bears' loss Sunday is one of the three.
The Bears had no business losing Sunday. But they somehow found a way to let a statement win slip through their fingers despite holding the ball for more than 40 minutes and winning the turnover battle by three.