The strategy seemed to backfire when R.W. McQuarters returned the free kick 37 yards, giving the offense the ball past midfield.
With no timeouts and 1:47 on the clock, Rex Grossman took the field. A 19-yard completion from Rex Grossman to David Terrell moved the Chicago closer to the game-winning touchdown. A 15-yard run on a Thomas Jones draw gave the Bears first and goal at the nine-yard line with just under a minute left in regulation.
On the next play Grossman took a sack, which left a second and long situation. There appeared to be plenty of time to run another play, but the offense sprinted back to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball with 28 seconds left.
On the third down Grossman scrambled in the pocket looking for a receiver and just when it looked like he was going to takeoff, he pulled back and lofted the ball in the end zone. The desperation pass was picked off by Bracy Walker and ended the chances for a dramatic come from behind win in Smith's debut.
"I like all of the decisions we made at the end," Lovie Smith said. "We have to make the play at the end of the game. It's a long year and it's all a part of our growth that we have to go through."
Walker helped turn the game around in the third quarter when he returned a blocked field goal 92 yards for a touchdown.
After turning the ball over just two times in the preseason the Bears surpassed that number in one game. Four giveaways compared to just one takeaway allowed the Lions to stay in the game despite being out gained 262 yards to 342. In addition Chicago committed nine penalties for 95 yards, including three 15-yard infractions.
Despite all the miscues the Bears still had a chance to win and Grossman vowed he would learn from the experience.
"We were nine yards away from winning and one boneheaded mistake cost us the game," Grossman said. "It's something I'll learn from and get better, I promise you that. I'll never do that again."
Although the passing looked out of sync at times, Terrell had his best game as a Bear. He caught five passes for 126 yards. He also added a 20-yard run on a reserve, but his performance will also be remembered for his lack of maturity. After the majority of his receptions he would throw the ball up in the air. His showboating finally cost the team 15-yards when he flipped the ball to the Detroit punter after a 35-yard completion. He also drew on an offensive pass interference penalty on the opening possession of the game.
"He's an emotional player, I don't think you can take that emotion from him, I think that's going to diminish his play," Mike Brown said. "You've got to try to tell him, you know, calm it down but that's David man."
The defense played well allowing just 13 of the Lions 20 points.
The Bears took the lead in their second drive of the game. Grossman and Terrell connected on consecutive passes for gains of 31 and 27 yards. Each of the receptions came with him picking up yards after the catch, which has been a problem for the former first-round pick.
Thomas Jones capped off the six-play drive with a tough two-yard touchdown run in which he broke away from LB James Davis to reach the end zone.
The penalty brought the ball back to the 11-yard line and the defense forced the Lions to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Jason Hanson.
The Bears forced a three out to start the third quarter and then on ensuing punt McQuarters handed the ball to Justin Gage on a reverse for a 55-yard return.
Starting inside the Lions 20-yard line, Chicago ran three straight times and failed to pick a first down. The Bears bid to take a 10-3 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Paul Edinger was blocked by Shaun Rogers. The kick was deflected right to Walker and after breaking an initial tackle needed just a Teddy Lehman pancake block on Mike Gandy to score.
Up until that moment the Bears had controlled the game, but the 10-point swing put momentum on the Lions side.
"It's a bad play if we have the field goal blocked, but we can't let them go the distance," Smith said. "If you look at one swing that determined the outcome of the game, it was that."
A Grossman fumble on a James Hall sack led to another Hanson field goal.
The Bears regain the lead early in the fourth quarter. Jones' second rushing score of the day gave the Bears a short-lived 14-13 advantage.
On the ensuing drive the Lions took the lead for good. The game-winning drive was set up by a 41-yard kick return by Eddie Drummond. QB Joey Harrington completed three straight passes for a total of 44 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to including a 4-yard pass to Az-Zahir Hakim that gave Detroit a 20-14 lead.
The win breaks the Lions 24-game road losing streak.
With road games at Green Bay and Minnesota before coming home to host Philadelphia the Bears are in danger of starting the season 0-4 for the first time since the 2000 season when the team finished 5-11.