DETROIT — Calvin Johnson’s big day was exactly what Detroit’s dormant offense needed.
Johnson caught 11 passes for 146 yards with a pair of first-half touchdowns, and the Lions boosted their postseason hopes with a 34-17 victory Thursday over the Chicago Bears.
After losing at Arizona and New England and falling out of first place in the NFC North, the Lions (8-4) spotted Chicago a 14-3 first-quarter lead before rallying with relative ease in the second. Johnson had perhaps his best game of the season, and Detroit finally showed a bit of life offensively.
Joique Bell ran for two touchdowns for the Lions, and Jay Cutler threw two TD passes for Chicago (5-7). Detroit’s Matthew Stafford went 34 of 45 for 390 yards with the two touchdown passes to Johnson.
Detroit had not scored this many points since a 35-14 win over the New York Giants in the season opener.
The Lions have now won back-to-back games on Thanksgiving after losing their previous nine. They beat Green Bay, 40-10, last year.
That victory over the Packers was Detroit’s only win in its final seven games last season as the Lions frittered away a playoff spot. They are again in mix for the postseason this year, and Thursday’s game was their first of three in a row at home — all against teams with losing records.
Detroit came in with the league’s top-ranked run defense, and Chicago’s Matt Forte was a non-factor on the ground, finishing with 6 yards on five carries. Cutler went 31 of 49 for 280 yards with two fourth-quarter interceptions.
Johnson had been held under 60 yards in two of three games since returning from an ankle injury, and there were rumblings that the 29-year-old receiver was slowing down. His first half Thursday was an emphatic response: nine catches for 109 yards.
The Bears opened the scoring on Cutler’s 10-yard scoring pass to Alshon Jeffery, and the Bears scored again after Jared Allen sacked Stafford, forced a fumble and recovered it at the Detroit 5. Cutler’s 6-yard scoring pass to Jeffery made it 14-3 with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter.
Stafford, however, was brilliant in the second. Johnson made a leaping catch for a 25-yard touchdown, holding on despite a hit from defensive back Kyle Fuller. That was the first time Detroit had reached the end zone since Nov. 9 against Miami.
Bell put the Lions ahead with a 1-yard scoring run on fourth down — leaping toward the goal line and extending the ball just far enough for a touchdown. Stafford’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Johnson made it 24-14 with 24 seconds left in the half.
Stafford went 22 of 26 for 275 yards in the first half, and Johnson set a record as the fastest to 10,000 yards receiving, surpassing that milestone in the second quarter of his 115th game.
Bell’s 1-yard run in the fourth was the only touchdown of the second half.