CHICAGO -- Matthew Stafford trudged off Soldier Fields turf to the locker room holding a pair of gloves in one hand, a white bandage on his right index finger and four interceptions glowing on his box-score line.
All of these items -- the gloves, the bandage, the interceptions -- were evidence and fodder for speculation from the 37-13 whipping the Chicago Bears gave the Lions Sunday afternoon.
Fresh off their bye week, the Lions were looking to jump-start the second half of their season.
Instead, they folded like a cheap umbrella in the wind that buffeted Soldier Field for most of the game.
There were no mysteries or second guesses for what happened in what was supposed to be a showdown between playoff contenders in the NFC North.
The Bears played like contenders in stretching their winning streak to four games for a 6-3 record.
The Lions barely played as they lost for the third time in the last four games to drop their record to 6-3. The offense committed six turnovers. Two of Staffords interceptions were returned for touchdowns early in the second half.
The special teams gave up an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown to Devin Hester while offering little in the way of a return threat itself.
And the defense, while yielding only one touchdown, committed too many penalties that added cheap yardage to a Bears team that didnt really need any help.
We have to own up to this game, coach Jim Schwartz said. This didnt not happen. We put it out there.
As the Lions go forward -- their next game is at home against the Caroline Panthers -- their greatest concern has to be Staffords play. He completed 33 of 63 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown to go with the four interceptions.
Stafford didnt have any rhythm or consistency. Schwartz blamed the wind for Staffords inaccuracy, and there was some validity to it.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had the comfort of playing with a lead. He attempted only 19 passes and completed nine for 123 yards. He did not have a touchdown or an interception.
But all of Staffords interceptions and bad throws could not be blamed on the wind.
Stafford wore gloves for the first time in his career, but not because of the temperature -- 69 degrees at kickoff -- or the winds gusts of up to 35 miles an hour.
He said his right index finger was broken in the last game against the Broncos two weeks ago.
I didnt do it for any other reason than to help my grip, Stafford said of his reason for wearing the gloves.
Wearing gloves didnt affect his throwing, he said.
Stafford wasnt the only Lions player who had trouble hanging on to the ball. At times, they handled it like it was a greased eggplant.
The Lions fumbled the ball away on their first two possessions to give the advantage to the Bears, who never gave it back.
First Calvin Johnson, then Nate Burleson fumbled after catching passes. The Bears converted those turnovers into a touchdown and field goal for a 10-0 lead.
It was 20-0 before the Lions got on the board with a pair of field goals by Jason Hanson to make it 20-6 at the intermission.
The Bears broke the game open within the first four minutes of the second half with two interception returns for touchdowns -- 24 yards by Major Wright and 44 yards by Charles Tillman.
That made it 34-6, ending any realistic hope of a Lions comeback. They got their only touchdown on Staffords 10-yard pass to Tony Scheffler with five minutes left.
Schwartz insisted that the wind played a role in the interceptions.
It was more the wind than it was than anything else, he said. The ball was moving. It was a very unpredictable wind. It was gusting at times.
There was no dispute in what the outcome meant in the race for a wild-card berth in the NFC playoffs.
A Lions victory would have made their record 7-2 and dropped the Bears to 5-4. Coupled with a 24-13 win a month ago at Ford Field in Detroit, the Lions could have delivered a knockout blow to the Bears chances of passing them in the wild-card race.
But the Bears counter-punched their way to get even with the Lions. With seven games left, theres no way to give either team an advantage -- except for the momentum the Bears have from their winning streak.
We had a chance to put them in the rear-view mirror and didnt do it, Stafford said.
Stafford was involved in a tussle in the fourth quarter after his third interception by Tim Jennings.
During Jennings return, Stafford was being blocked by Bears cornerback D.J. Moore. As Stafford backpedaled, he retaliated by grabbing Moore by the back of the helmet and throwing him down.
Moore got to his feet and charged at Stafford, knocking him backward. Players on both teams jumped in.
Moore was the only player penalized in the ensuing melee. He was ejected.
I was just trying to get off him, Stafford said. I guess he didnt like the way I did it.
Did Stafford like the way he did it?
Yup, he replied.