(Reuters) - The Detroit Lions’ bid to snap a two-year playoff drought was given a massive boost after a 34-17 win over the Chicago Bears on Thursday halted a two-game skid and moved them into a share of the division lead.
Detroit, hosting the first of the National Football League’s three U.S. Thanksgiving Day games, got off to a sloppy start but pulled away with touchdowns on their final three possessions of the opening half to build a 24-14 lead.
Trailing 14-3 after the first quarter, Matthew Stafford threw two second-quarter touchdowns to Calvin Johnson sandwiched around a one-yard run from Joique Bell, his first of two scores on the day, that gave Detroit the lead for good.
“I felt great,” said Johnson, who had 11 catches for 146 yards in his fourth game back from an ankle injury. “To get us going, get us back in sync and make some big plays for the team, all the guys contributed today and we had a big day.”
The Lions (8-4), who entered the game tied with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers for the final National Football Conference playoff berth, are now joint top in the NFC North with the Green Bay Packers.
Stafford finished the game completing 34 of 45 passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns to put the Lions in position to secure their first playoff berth since the NFL’s 2011 season.
Detroit have to play only one team with a winning record, at the division rival Packers in the regular season finale next month, over their final four games.
The Bears got off to a solid start, marching down the field with ease on their opening possession as quarterback Jay Cutler capped a six-play 55-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffrey.
Chicago then took advantage of a turnover deep in the Lions end when, two plays after Stafford was sacked and fumbled the ball, Cutler found Jeffrey again with a six-yard pass.
It marked the last time the Bears would find the end zone.
For Chicago (5-7), the loss deals a severe blow to their playoff hopes as they entered the contest needing to win their final four games to just to have a shot at securing their first playoff berth since the 2010 NFL campaign.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes