Madden curse watch week 17: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

Historically, players who are featured on the cover of the “Madden NFL” franchise experience significant drops in their offensive production. NFL.com is tracking the performance of Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions over the course of the 2012 season because we believe Johnson will debunk the Madden curse.

Week 17 has finally arrived. The Detroit Lions will not be returning to the playoffs, and since Calvin Johnson had already claimed the record for receiving yards in a single season, the Lions looked to play spoiler to the playoff hopes of their division rival Chicago Bears.

Let’s see just how far Megatron pushed his record, and if the Bears were able to triumph on the road and keep their playoff hopes alive.

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FIRST QUARTER

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The Lions receive the opening kickoff, and after two short Mikel Leshoure runs, Matthew Stafford is pressured on third down and forced to throw it away.

After receiving the punt the Bears waste no time going to work, as Jay Cutler finds Alshon Jeffrey for a deep completion down the sideline to the Lions 27-yard line.

However, the drive stalled from there thanks to a penalty, stiff play by the Lions defense, and a costly Cutler fumble that the Bears recovered at the 50-yard line, forcing a punt.

Taking advantage of the Bears miscues, Stafford connects with Tony Scheffler for a 28-yard gain, and then Megatron for 18 more on the next play, moving the Lions into Bears territory in a hurry.

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With Stafford pressured again on third down, Johnson makes a great catch to move the chains. With that catch, Calvin Johnson is now 85 yards away from reaching 2,000 in a single season.

After a few incompletions and a near fumble by Stafford, the Lions settled for a 44-yard field goal from Jason Hanson.

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3-0, Lions.

Matt Forte gets the Bears drive going with an 18-yard gain on a screen pass. And on the next play Earl Bennett takes a swing pass from Cutler 60-yards to the house. And just like that the Bears take the lead.

7-3, Bears.

On the ensuing kickoff, after a decent return Joique Bell loses the football and the Bears recover at the 24-yard Lion of the Lions. Cutler and Brandon Marshall were unable to connect on a shot to the endzone, which eventually lead to an Olindo Mare field goal.

10-3, Bears.

A great catch by Mike Thomas keeps the next Lions drive alive after an early third down before the end of the first quarter.

Calvin Johnson first quarter: 2 catches, 23 yards.

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SECOND QUARTER

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A false start and a deep incompletion intended for Megatron bring an end to the Lions drive.

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The Bears take over at their own 29-yard line after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Lions. The Bears were able to move into Lions territory, but the drive stalled and they punted it back to the Lions.

Penalties continue to plague the Lions, as a holding penalty erases a good gain on a tight end screen to Tony Scheffler. Yet again, the Lions are unable to convert the long down and distance and have to punt.

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After a couple nice gains from Matt Forte, the Lions defense held strong, and forced another field goal which went wide, meaning the Bears were unable to capitalize on good field position.

On the next Lions drive, the Bears defense gives their offense another chance after Israel Idonije stripped Matthew Stafford of the football on a sack, which the Bears recovered.

The Bears capitalized this time, on a 1-yard Matt Forte rushing touchdown.

17-3, Bears.

On the Detroit Lions next possession, the opportunistic Bears defense strikes again when Tim Jennings intercepts Matthew Stafford and brings it back to the 23-yard line of the Lions. It was Jennings ninth interception of the season, which leads the NFL.

The Lions defense prevented a rout by holding the Bears offense to a field goal.

20-3, Bears.

Time for the two-minute drill to make this game interesting before half. Utilizing quick passes, the Lions are able to move the ball into Bears territory, but use their last time out with 0:50 seconds left in the half. Stafford attempted his 700th pass of the season on the drive, making him the first player in NFL history to cross that landmark.

A few plays later, Stafford finds Kris Durham for a touchdown to cut the Bears lead to 10.

20-10, Bears.

Calvin Johnson first half stats: 2 catches, 23 yards.

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THIRD QUARTER

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The Bears start to put together a nice drive to begin the half, but Stephen Tulloch makes a nice play to stuff a screen pass. Cutler misses Jeffrey deep on third down, forcing a punt.

Can Megatron and Stafford lead a comeback?

The duo connect twice on the next drive, for 18 yards and 24 yards, moving the Lions inside the 10-yard line and threatening to make this a ball game.

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Charles Tillman breaks up a pass intended for Johnson near the goal line, but Stafford finds Will Heller on the next play for a 10-yard touchdown.

20-17, Bears.

On the next Bears drive, the Lions defense holds strong on third and one, tackling Kalil Bell for a loss, and giving the ball back to Stafford and the offense.

Unfortunately for the Lions, they commit their fourth turnover of the game when Matthew Stafford and Mikel Leshoure fumble their hand off exchange and Major Wright recovers it for the Bears.

The Lions defense held strong yet again, however, sacking Cutler and making the Bears take a field goal for the third time after a turnover.

23-17, Bears.

Stafford and company were unable to get anything going on offense, leaving the Bears with good field position again after punting from deep in their own territory.

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Calvin Johnson stats: 5 catches, 72 yards. 

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FOURTH QUARTER

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Needing a good drive to extend their lead, the Bears took over near midfield.

Matt Forte moves the chains with some hard running before Cutler hooks up with Earl Bennet down the sideline for a 28-yard gain.

The Bears moved all the way down to the Lions’ 2-yard line, but once again the Lions defense held strong, breaking up a pass to Brandon Marshall and forcing the Bears to take another field goal.

26-17, Bears.

An unnecessary roughness penalty against the Bears keeps the Lions’ next drive alive. After the penalty, Stafford finds Brian Robiskie for a gain of 21 yards, moving the Lions deep into Bears territory. On the next play, Will Heller takes another Stafford pass down inside the 10-yard line.

Stafford stays hot and hits Robiskie for a 9-yard touchdown, closing the Bears’ diminishing lead to three points.

26-23, Bears.

After the score, the teams traded punts, leaving the Bears with the ball and around four minutes to play.

The Lions had one timeout left, and forced the Bears into a third and short situation, when Jay Cutler broke free for a 19-yard scramble. Matt Forte put the game out of reach for the Lions, when he converted another first down for the Bears right before the two-minute warning. The Bears offense came alive in just enough time to ice the game, and leave them with a chance to make the playoffs.

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Final score: 26-23, Bears. 

It was a disappointing season for the Detroit Lions, but they can head into the off-season with their heads up. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson each set NFL records, meaning the future could still be bright in Detroit. Johnson may have fallen just short of 2,000 receiving yards, but his incredible record of 1,964 yards receiving in a single season will likely stand for many years to come.

In our humble opinion, we think it’s safe to say the Madden curse has officially been busted.

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