Bears quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a fractured right thumb in the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon and could be out for the rest of the season.
The Bears would neither confirm nor deny the injury, but a team source indicated Cutler could be out through the end of the regular season.
Even if the 7-3 Bears get a best-case scenario, Cutler is extremely doubtful for Sunday's game against the 6-4 Raiders in Oakland.
The injury apparently occurred when Cutler's pass intended for Johnny Knox was intercepted by Antoine Cason, who returned it 64 yards to the Bears' 16-yard line, where he was pushed out of bounds by Matt Forte, after Cutler appeared to be in position to make the tackle. Cutler fell on his right hand and reportedly suffered the injury then, although he finished the game and completed both of his remaining pass attempts, for 13 yards to Matt Spaeth and for 11 yards to Forte.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a similar injury a week ago in the third quarter against the Bengals and finished the game. The Steelers were off this week, and Roethlisberger says he will not miss the next game on Nov. 27. Roethlisberger also fractured his right thumb in 2005, but still led the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory.
Cutler attended his regular press conference after the game and did not appear to be in discomfort. He has missed just one regular-season game in six NFL seasons, but he left last season's NFC title game against the Packers after suffering a sprained knee.
The Bears' only backup with NFL experience is Caleb Hanie, who was initially passed over in the Packers game but finished the game and briefly rallied the Bears who eventually lost 21-14. Hanie completed 13 of 20 passes in the game for 153 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 65.2 passer rating.
Hanie, a four-year veteran who was undrafted out of Colorado State in 2008, has never started an NFL game and has thrown just 14 regular-season passes.
The only other quarterback currently on the roster is rookie Nathan Enderle, a fifth-round pick out of Idaho.
Cutler had another efficient outing Sunday, completing 18 of 31 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and a 97.0 passer rating.
"Last week I talked about the defense, and how they did everything to help us win," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "(Sunday) it was about the offense. Jay Cutler was outstanding."
The Bears hope it wasn't his final performance of the season.
TRENDING: The Bears, who allowed 14 sacks in the first three games, have allowed just five in the past five games, including none, ironically, on Sunday against the Chargers. Quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a fractured thumb, which could be season ending, but it was while he was attempting to make a tackle after an interception.
LINEUP WATCH: Even though second-year strong safety Major Wright has had to give up some reps to Brandon Meriweather in a platoon system, the former Florida Gator has interceptions in each of his last three games, the first picks of his career.
Jim Schwartz hit the nail on the head: "We can't make the mistakes we made (Sunday) against Green Bay."
No. If the Lions throw interceptions on their first two possessions, fumble the ball away on their third and give up a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Packers on Thursday – as they did against the Panthers on Sunday – it will be a long, bitter Thanksgiving day.
The Lions rallied from a 24-7 deficit to beat the Panthers 49-35, raising their record to 7-3 and keeping their playoff hopes alive. According to STATS LLC research, Detroit is the only team since 1950 to come back from deficits of 17 or more points to win three times in a season.
This is also the first Lions team since 1952 that has scored 45 or more points three times in a season.
"We can get hot as a team," Schwartz said. "We can get defensive stops, force turnovers and start scoring points in a hurry. We can get as hot as any team in the league, and you saw that in the third quarter (against Carolina)."
Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw four interceptions in the second half the previous week in Chicago, started 3-for-8 Sunday with two more interceptions. He finished 28-for-36 with 335 yards and five touchdowns. The scoring passes went to five different receivers -- running back Kevin Smith (28 yards), receivers Titus Young (3) and Nate Burleson (16), and tight ends Tony Scheffler (17) and Brandon Pettigrew (7).
"The worst thing that could have happened (after the slow start) was to all of a sudden get conservative and stop taking shots downfield," Schwartz said. "He kept on taking shots."
And the defense kept getting stops. The Lions were able to keep steady pressure on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, forcing four interceptions.
"This is a big win for us, but at the same time, on Thursday, this game isn't going to mean much," Burleson said. "Like I told the guys when we broke it down, 'Enjoy this win, celebrate if you want to, but as soon as you lay your head on the pillow and close your eyes, it's time to start thinking about Thursday."
The Lions haven't won on Thanksgiving since 2003 -- when they beat Green Bay.
LINEUP WATCH: It looks as if, until Jahvid Best can come back from a concussion, Kevin Smith is going to be handling the running back duties. Smith replaced starter Maurice Morris on Sunday and provided the Lions with 140 yards rushing and 61 yards receiving. He scored a touchdown on the ground and one through the air.
"I think the NFL will be hard-pressed to find a better story than Kevin Smith today," coach Jim Schwartz said. "This is a guy who has a lot of talent but has been set back by injuries. The talent didn't go anywhere. He looks a little different in that No. 30, but I think we will keep that on him for a while."
Still, Schwartz didn't commit to him as the starter.
"We will just let Kevin's performance stand on its own, regardless of the other players," he said.
TRENDING: Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham lost his patience with Amari Spievey and benched the second-year strong safety in the second quarter. Spievey had missed a couple of open-field tackles, the last of which sprung Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams on a 26-yard run that set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Cam Newton. Veteran Chris Harris replaced him and played the rest of the game.
"We were unsettled on defense, giving up long runs and missing tackles," Schwartz said. "That has been an Achilles heel for us, and the same thing was happening in the first quarter. Chris is a veteran player, and his strength is being the box and tackling. That helped settle us down."
Harris wound up with two tackles, a pass deflection and an interception.
"We still have confidence in Amari," Schwartz said. "It's a little like relief pitchers in baseball. Sometimes a pitcher doesn't have his best stuff, and you have to go to your bullpen. The bullpen was able to bring the win out today."
Green Bay Packers
The Packers have missed getting to the playoffs only once – in 1989 with a 10-6 record – when they have won at least 10 games since the expansion of the schedule to 16 games in 1978.
Considering Green Bay is the first team to get to 10 wins this season, it's almost a certainty the postseason will include the league's only remaining unbeaten team. Yet, the Packers aren't resting on their 10-0 laurels as they go into a Thanksgiving matchup with the rival Lions (7-3) in Detroit on Thursday.
"It's our Super Bowl, too," Packers defensive end Ryan Pickett said. "If we go there and beat 'em, the division (race) is pretty much up. That would put them four games behind us. So, this is going to be a big game for us. We've got it circled as well."
While Pickett forgot to include the Chicago Bears, who also are 7-3, still giving chase in the NFC North, the Packers can start thinking about more than closing in on the division title if they spoil the Lions' holiday.
The first meeting of the season with Detroit, which will visit Green Bay on New Year's Day to finish the regular season, comes at the end of a grueling three-games-in-11-days stretch for the Packers.
As well as they played in a 45-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, Nov. 14, the Green Bay players weren't rejoicing over their 35-26 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, also at home.
"We were inconsistent on a lot of stuff. Stupid things," running back Ryan Grant said.
Admittedly frustrated quarterback Aaron Rodgers took the critical self-assessment a step further by saying, "I'm not going to speak for anybody else, but personally, I just didn't play my best game. So, I've got to look at myself first. I've got to play better, and (the final score) probably won't be as close."
Still, Rodgers' 299 passing yards and three touchdowns were needed to ensure the Packers kept their perfect record intact after the Bucs rallied in the second half to get within two points on two occasions.
"It's a win, but we're not too happy about ourselves," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "We're going to come out swinging on Thanksgiving."
TRENDING: Jordy Nelson is standing out as the biggest playmaker in Green Bay's prolific passing game. The fourth-year player had two touchdown catches Sunday for the second straight game, giving him a team-high nine touchdown receptions - two more than No. 1 wideout Greg Jennings. "Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers are really in a groove right now," head coach Mike McCarthy said. So much that Rodgers connected with Nelson (six catches, 123 yards) on a deep throw along the sideline that resulted in a 40-yard touchdown to account for the final points with less than three minutes to play after Tampa Bay cut its deficit to 28-26. Nelson has three 100-yard games in the last five outings, during which he has six touchdown catches.
LINEUP WATCH: Second-year defensive end Mike Neal made his season debut Sunday after recovering from surgery for a left knee injury he sustained in training camp. Neal was used as a situational pass rusher, primarily getting on the field on third down and playing about 15 snaps. The Packers were expecting Neal to replace veteran Cullen Jenkins, who left in free agency, in the starting lineup before the 2010 second-round draft pick suffered torn cartilage in the knee.