"Generally, I'd have liked it a whole lot better if we had got the call our way today," Bears quarterback Chad Hutchinson said.
They suffered playoff elimination, and at 5-10 fell to their sixth season with double-digit losses in the last eight. None of that mattered as much as the call which the Bears felt robbed them of one more win, dropped them into sole possession of last place in the NFC North and lifted the Lions to 6-9.
Bears celebrated along the sidelines while monitors showed the replay of Berrian's ruled incompletion near the sideline in the end zone on first down behind Lions defensive back Andre Goodman. They patted Berrian on the back and wide receiver David Terrell began doing chest-bumps with Berrian on the sidelines while they awaited an expected overturn of the incompletion ruling -- that's how decisive they felt the replay was.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said he was so certain it was a TD that he started talking two-minute drill defensive strategy to protect what figured to be a 20-19 lead.
Berrian had the ball in his clutches with both feet in bounds and fell to the ground while pushed by Goodman.
"Touchdown," Hutchinson said simply.
No catch, said referee Terry McAulay. After the on-field incomplete call, McAulay looked at replays and announced: "The receiver was going to the ground on his own and the ball moved in his grasp. The ball moved when he hit the ground. It was an incomplete pass as ruled on the field."
Hutchinson, who had finished a 90-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jason McKie 5 1/2 minutes earlier, was in disbelief.
"That's not a call," he complained. "When you cross the end zone, all you need is two feet in and the ball in your possession for control of the ball, and he had that."
Berrian didn't get up protesting to officials that he made a catch after the incompletion call.
"That's because I was sure the replay was going to show it was a touchdown," he said.
So Smith had to face his team moments after the loss, certain they'd been robbed.
"He just said, 'well we've just got to take our lumps," Smith said. "Sometimes it's not there. We're a team that's growing here and sometimes you have to take this."
The assigned home team pool reporters who are allowed to speak to the head referee after a game failed to question him on the ruling.
Hutchinson did have three pass attempts after the replay ruling, and all three missed the mark.
"I tried not to let it affect me," said Hutchinson, who completed 20-of-35 for 114 yard. "But you should have won the game right there.
"Granted, I am going to say this: We shouldn't have let it come down to the fourth quarter on a play like that to decide the game for us. We should have played better. And I will take that upon my shoulders. We didn't play well as an offense until the fourth quarter."
Even their defense appeared to have called it quits for the season, as it gave up 71 of Jones' 123 rushing yards and yielded 154 of Joey Harrington's 166 passing yards in the first half.
The game turned drastically on one Bears defensive play, though. With strong safety Mike Green about to sack Harrington (15-of-30), the Lions' quarterback threw the ball up for grabs and right to Bears weak side linebacker Lance Briggs. He ran 38 yards for a touchdown with the interception and the Bears trailed 16-6 after an incomplete two-point conversion pass.
"We decided in that second half we weren't going to go down that way, we were going to pressure them and go after Harrington," Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "The guys responded to that."
The Lions did manage a 40-yard Hanson field goal as an answer -- a play made possible by an overturned replay of a Kevin Jones fumble.
However, a Bears offense which failed to score a TD in three of the four games prior to this one, suddenly caught fire behind a strong ground attack.
Thomas Jones, who rushed for 109 yards on 22 carries, ran five times for 36 yards on a 90-yard drive that ended with McKie's TD catch with 7:04 left in the game.
"We started to click a little bit," Thomas Jones said. "The whole year, pretty much, we've just had some unfortunate situations."
One of the most unfortunate was yet to occur. A defensive stand forced a Detroit punt and the Bears drove 30 yards to the Lions' 43 with 1:33 left. Then Hutchinson threw the bomb in the corner of the end zone for Berrian.
"Big play Chad really stepped it up, leading the team down into scoring position two times," Smith said. "We made a lot of mistakes and you do have to count the entire 60 minutes and for the entire 60 minutes it wasn't good enough."
Save for one strange replay call in the corner of the end zone.