Aidan Hutchinson makes a pair of glaring mistakes as the Lions’ defense struggles again
CHICAGO (AP) — Aidan Hutchinson was a big factor as the Detroit Lions jumped out to a fast start this season.
That seems like a long time ago at the moment — for Hutchinson and the rest of Detroit’s slumping defense.
The NFC North-leading Lions surrendered 18 unanswered points in the second half of a 28-13 loss to the last-place Chicago Bears on Sunday. Hutchinson jumped offside on a key play at the end of the third quarter, and then played a role in another Bears touchdown early in the fourth.
Once a trendy Super Bowl pick, Detroit (9-4) dropped to 4-3 in its last seven games. It has allowed 28.7 points per game during the tough stretch.
“I feel like we kind of lost our swagger and our confidence,” said defensive end John Cominsky, who had one of Detroit’s three sacks against Chicago. “When we played with that swagger and that confidence and guys are loose, I think that’s when we were playing our best ball.
“So that’s got to be a point of emphasis, to have that discipline this week, but also get that swagger and that confidence back.”
That likely begins with Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 draft. The 23-year-old defensive end has two sacks — both coming against Chicago — in the last eight games after he had 4 1/2 in the first five weeks of the season.
Hutchinson helped close out Detroit’s wild 31-26 victory over Chicago on Nov. 19 with a strip-sack of Justin Fields that resulted in a safety in the final minute. But he made a pair of glaring mistakes in the rematch.
With Chicago facing a fourth-and-13 late in the third quarter, Hutchinson jumped offside on a hard count. Fields took advantage of the free play by finding DJ Moore for a 38-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bears a 19-13 lead.
“That’s just a momentary lapse in judgement,” Hutchinson said. “Disgusted with it, that play. I think that play just changed the momentum of the game, and that’s on me.”
Hutchinson was clearly frustrated with himself after the loss, but Cominsky rushed to his defense.
“Hutch has been such a good rusher for us, and we’re going to eat that, all 11 of us are going to take that,” he said. “Hutch is beating himself up, so we got to keep him up and take it as a unit.”
Detroit then gave the ball right back to Chicago on a botched exchange between Jared Goff and Graham Glasgow, who started at center with Frank Ragnow sidelined by a knee injury. The fumble set the Bears up deep in Lions territory.
On third-and-goal at the 11, Hutchinson called a stunt and moved inside — leaving the right side of the field wide open. The speedy Fields scrambled toward the open space and all the way to the corner of the end zone for the TD.
“I put that one on and it’s not a good one when you get the (offensive line) slide to you, so it’s kind of vulnerable, the edge,” Hutchinson said. “During a game, you make decisions that you think are right, you know, so it’s just the price of this game. It’s the price of putting everything on the line.”
Detroit surrendered 142 yards rushing in its first game since it placed Alim McNeill on injured reserve on Tuesday with a knee injury. McNeill, the team’s best interior defensive lineman, has 31 tackles and a career-high five sacks this season.
“I know exactly what we are. We’re a team that will fight,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “We got to do things right because any little mistake, man, it throws us off now. That’s just the type of team we are. But we got plenty here. We got plenty. We do things right. We’re pretty damn good. ... We’ll get it cleaned up, man. We’ll move on.”