"How about those Bears," an elated coach Lovie Smith shouted in the post-game press conference after Tillman's TD.
The Bears trailed 3-0 early, seized command with a 13-point second quarter, fell into a tie and then won it when Garcia panicked under a heavy pass rush and tried to throw back across the field deep in his own territory for wide receiver Mike Williams. Tillman waited, broke on the ball and was untouched as he raced toward the corner of the end zone with 6:17 gone in the extra period.
"He tried to throw across his body and the ball was floating, so I stepped in front of it and took it," said Tillman.
It ended a tight back-and-forth game in which the Bears may have seen the emergence of a downfield passing game for the first time with a career-high 230 yards from quarterback Kyle Orton (17-of-30). They also got their first major contribution from rookie running back Cedric Benson, whose 25-yard run in relief of injured Thomas Jones helped set up good field position for the finish.
"There were just a lot of great things that happened," Smith said. "But in order for us to get over that hump, and for us to go to the next level, you have to win a game like this on the road in a tough environment. We were able to do that.
"It was a great win by us. We'll hopefully try go build on this and go for four in a row." The end result of their third straight win was a one-game lead at 4-3 for the Bears over Detroit (3-4) in the NFC North, where Green Bay (1-6) and Minnesota (2-5) now appear to be non-factors. They also have the tiebreaker edge with two wins over Detroit and a 3-0 division mark.
"We had a couple of opportunities to start the second half, I thought, to put the game away," Orton said. "And had a couple dropped passes, had a couple miscues and didn't put the game away -- instead kind of let them back in it.
"But to win like that, and to come back win on a great defensive play like that feels great."
The Bears' offense made its biggest contribution with a game-changing 99-yard touchdown drive after Jason Hanson's first-quarter field goal had given the Lions a 3-0 lead.
Orton hit rookie wide receiver Mark Bradley slanting in and through the Lions secondary for the biggest Bears passing gain of the year, a 54-yarder. On third-and-11 from the Lions' 23, he then threw blindly over the middle to a leaping Muhsin Muhammad, who beat former Bear R.W. McQuarters in coverage and took a big hit from Lions safety Terrence Holt for the TD and a 7-3 lead.
"That's what they brought me here for was to make the tough catches, take the big hits and things like that," Muhammad said. "It was very high and I had to jump up and I had to go get it.
"It was worth it. It was worth the hits and everything that came with it."
Over the course of each team's final three possessions of the first half, the Bears outgained Detroit 201 yards to 19. The Bears went in at halftime leading 13-3 after Robbie Gould ended a 13-play, 69-yard drive with a 38-yard field goal 1:55 before halftime and finished a five-play, hurry-up march with a 20-yard field goal.
Twice in the early second half the Bears had possession in Detroit territory without scoring, and the Lions struck back with a 12-play, 85-yard drive. It ended in the first rushing touchdown any team has scored against the Bears' defense this year, a 6-yard run by Kevin Jones.
"They moved the ball," said Bears defensive end Alex Brown, who made his first sack of the season Sunday. "We did a lot of bad things on defense but we found a way to win."
Garcia (23-of-35, 197 yards) who frustrated the Bears with his scrambling and short passing game, moved it 52 yards to an early fourth-quarter field goal to tie it at 13-13.
The Lions never got beyond the Bears' 45 again, but the Bears twice appeared on the verge of going ahead. They had it at the Lions' 27 with 9:53 left when Jones lost a fumble, then had it stolen away from him on the pile up as he tried to recover.
Jones suffered a rib injury on the play and left the game. It was the Bears' second big injury of the game. Bradley suffered a right knee sprain in the first half and left the field on a cart.
The defense nearly came away with the go-ahead points when linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer scooped up a ball Garcia had thrown up for grabs laterally while in the grasp of Urlacher. Hillenmeyer ran 22 yards with the ball for a TD, but officials and the replay official then said it was a forward pass and an intentional grounding penalty.
"I thought it was either a lateral or in the grasp because Brian had him wrapped up pretty good," Hillenmeyer said. "He just sort of flipped it over his shoulder. I got a great hop.
"At least we won the game. It's not up to us to second-guess the ref."
They didn't need to do that because they produced another 22-yard score in overtime. The teams had exchanged punts in overtime and Garcia faced third-and-five at his 18 when he threw the ill-fated pass.
"He'll run around and try to make a play here and there, and most of the time we benefit from his improvisation," Lions coach Steve Mariucci said. "That one, they got us."
And along with it, they got command of the NFC North heading into a game against the New Orleans Saints Sunday at Baton Rouge.