Wherever the Lions go this season, debates ensue about the difference between physical football and dirty play.
That was still a topic nearly 24 hours after the Bears took the upstart Lions down another peg with a 37-13 victory on Sunday, handing the visitors their third loss in four games while extending their win streak to four. Both NFC North teams are now 6-3.
Bears coach Lovie Smith did not accuse the Lions of crossing the line with their aggressive play Sunday. The closest he came to criticism was when he was asked about Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh ripping Jay Cutler's helmet off on a tackle.
"Pulling the guy's helmet and throwing him down, that's a little out of bounds," Smith said. "I think it's safe to say you shouldn't do that. I'll just kind of leave it at that."
Briggs drove his shoulder into Calvin Johnson after a short catch, decleating the Lions' 6-5, 236-pound wide receiver and drawing a 15-yard penalty.
"I do think we're maybe going a little bit too far," Smith said of the NFL's emphasis on reducing and penalizing what it considers dangerous plays. "I'm all for protection and all of that. But it just seems like sometimes things are called a little bit based on the reaction of the offensive player.
"Looking at Lance Briggs' hit yesterday, yeah, it was a big hit, but it's a physical football game, too. I don't think there was anything flagrant he was trying to do on that. He didn't necessarily lead with his head."
It remains to be seen if the league will fine Briggs, but defensive end Israel Idonije gives his teammate the benefit of the doubt.
"Lance's hit, to me that was a good football hit," Idonije said. "But it's just so violent, and the officials have to make that call so quickly. Because it was an incredible blow, he throws the flag. But Lance's intentions were right."
In Moore's case, he made the mistake of retaliating in full view of the officials after Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford yanked him to the ground with one hand on the back of his helmet and the other on his facemask. While Stafford wasn't penalized, Moore was flagged and ejected.
"After reviewing the video of it," Smith said, "first off, you shouldn't retaliate, (but) officials are supposed to be looking at the instigator in situations like that. D.J. was not [the instigator]. Stafford grabbed him by his helmet. You can't do that either.
"In those situations, I could understand the officials throwing out D.J., but it seemed like both guys should have been thrown out in that situation."
Bears guard Roberto Garza considered the chippy play business as usual.
"It's not a pillow fight out there," he said. "We're going out there to play football. We have to go out there and continue to play physical. Obviously they're an intense group, and we have to go out there and match their intensity."
As with most division games, especially one like Sunday's, which could have playoff implications, much is at stake. But Smith would prefer that his team vent its intensity and toughness through the proper channels.
"Things did get out of hand a little bit," he said. "We're not looking for that. You have plenty of time in between the whistles to prove exactly how tough you are and show your brand of physical football and that's what we try to do.
"There's plenty of time during the course of the game to show how tough you are and (show) who's the most physical football team, and I think that happened (Sunday)."
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