It was far from dominant. And it was, at times, not very aesthetically pleasing. But the Bears did what they had to do to get a 24-20 road win over Detroit on Sunday, and they did what they had to do to hold onto the lead in the NFC North divisional race.

It was far from dominant. And it was, at times, not very aesthetically pleasing. But the Bears did what they had to do to get a 24-20 road win over Detroit on Sunday, and they did what they had to do to hold onto the lead in the NFC North divisional race.

"We knew going into it, and this team is veteran enough to know what type of game we were in for. It was going to be a tough one. It was going to be a fight," Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. "We weren’t going to come in here and blow everybody’s doors off. This kind of knocks us back down a little bit. It gets our feet back on the ground.

"It’s a good victory for us."

A good victory that did not come easy. Chicago (10-3) racked up 311 yards of offense while Detroit (2-11) gained 302. The Bears rushed for 4.1 yards per carry (28-114) while the Lions gained five yards per rush (27-134). The Bears turned it over only once, but the Lions never gave it away.

Instead, the Bears had to earn this one.

"They’re a desperate team and this was one of the big games left on their schedule," defensive end Julius Peppers said. "They were going to do anything they could to try and get the edge and get the win. But we fought through it, stayed together, and did what had to be done to get the win."

The Lions struck first, and got the crowd involved early on. Third-string QB Drew Stanton — who went on to throw for 178 yards and a touchdown with a 102.4 passer rating — capped off the team’s first drive himself, scoring on a three-yard quarterback draw.

Back-to-back long, ball-controlled drives by the Bears handed the visitors a 14-10 lead, but Detroit grabbed the momentum back with two big-strike plays just before halftime that had the Bears reeling; and down 17-14 at the break.

"That was not the way we wanted to go into halftime," Chicago’s nickel-back D.J. Moore said. "That was not the way at all."

When Detroit went 91 yards on two plays — a 45-yard run by rookie running back Jahvid Best and a 46-yard TD pass from Stanton to Calvin Johnson with 19 seconds left — the Lions not only regained the lead, but they got off one of those proverbial smacks in the face. They ran into the locker room with the three-point lead, but they may have also awoken a sleeping giant.

"We got it together after that," Peppers added. "I don’t know when or why, but we got it back."

Cutler was sacked and fumbled it away just two plays into the second half, and a 25-yard field goal gave the Lions a six-point lead. But Chicago snapped to attention from there, led by Cutler, and a once-again-stingy defense.

A 30-yard punt return by Devin Hester, and a 54-yard field goal from Robbie Gould cut the lead in half. A D.J. Moore stop for no gain on a fourth-and-one early in the fourth quarter then put the Bears in position to steal another one on the road.

Cutler, who finished 21-for-26 for 234 yards and a touchdown and a 117.0 QB rating, tossed a seven-yard TD strike to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna with 8:39 left to play, and the Bears D held strong down the stretch. Chicago held Detroit to just 49 second-half yards, and after Moore’s sack stalled the Lions’ drive with just over five minutes to go, the Bears offense went back into ball-control mode, and did not give the Lions another shot at it.

"There’s a reason why they’re leading the division," Stanton said of the Bears.

That would be their ability to pull out key victories, even when they’re not at their best. That was the case Sunday.

"When we win, it’s not the way we’d like to sometimes," linebacker Brian Urlacher said after his 17-tackle performance. "But it doesn’t matter at this point. We won."

Bears reporter Jay Taft can be reached at 815-987-1384 or jtaft@rrstar.com.