ACL’s Week 7 Matchup Preview: Lions@Bears
Coming off a relatively uneventful bye week, Monday night the Bears host the Detroit Lions in what should be a continuation of the “grudge” matches from last year. The Lions haven’t put together a “complete” game all year. Every week it seems like the Lions are desperately trying to get a come from behind win late in the game. They are a dangerous team however, and are capable of scoring points in bunches. The good news is this year’s Bears team is well-suited to handing the Lions a loss. Four key things need to happen for the Bears to get their 5th win of the season.
The Bears’ defense is flat-out killing teams. They’re currently ranked 4th in sacks, 7th in passes defensed, and 1st in: INTs, rush yards per game, total points allowed, and points per game. Impressive, when you consider they’ve played one game less than the league leaders. The first key to victory on the defensive side of the ball is obvious. Pressure Stafford by making him throw the ball before he wants to or take a sack. The Lions don’t have much of a running game, so they’ll be throwing often. If Stafford has time to throw, the Bears’ safeties will need to give Tillman or Jennings help over the top on whichever side Calvin Johnson is on. “Megatron” is having a down year thus far, but don’t kid yourself: he’s the best wide receiver in the game and his “down year” is better than most receivers will ever have.
Chris Conte and Major Wright will once again be critical in patrolling the middle of the field and giving deep help to Peanut and Jennings. Both players have impressed at times this year, and will need to be on their A game this Monday. The Lions don’t scare anyone in the running game, but they have multiple threats at wide receiver other than Johnson. Young, Pettigrew, and Burleson are all quite capable of gashing teams for large chunks of yardage. The Bears need to pay attention to Pettigrew over the middle and up the seam in the Cover-2. Briggs, Urlacher, and Roach will need to cover a lot of ground over the middle of the field.
In order to keep the dangerous Lions’ offense off the field, the Bears need to run the ball so much it lulls the Lions’ defenders to sleep. Once they’re expecting run, slay them with play-action. The run game should be effective as the Lions’ front 4 on defense have simply underperformed this year. They should be a LOT better than their play has suggested. They are 12th against the run, but that’s a misleading statistic; two of the teams they’ve played have a pathetic rushing attack. The three teams they’ve faced with good running backs have averaged over 115 yards a game. The Lions are currently ranked 16th against the pass, and 18th in sacks. Their defense is built around getting pressure on the QB, and they’re simply not doing it. This exposes their weak secondary. My second key to the game is winning the battle on the line of scrimmage. If the Bears keep Cutler upright, they’ll win.
Last year, during the week 10 smackdown, Stafford showed that he has a tough time handling adversity. The Bears defense needs to test him again with opportunistic play. If they pick him off early and put the game out of reach, the potential is there for Stafford to “check out” of the game mentally. We witnessed it when the excuses started rolling in after the 37-13 smackdown. Getting inside Stafford’s head is the third key to this game.
The Bears will also need to be aware of the Lions players trying to instigate, playing “past the whistle” and taking cheap shots at Cutler. The fourth key to winning this game is not retaliating. Don’t engage in “after the whistle” shenanigans, and don’t get caught reciprocating.
They do those four things and the Bears cakewalk their way to a 5-1 record. Final score: Your Chicago Bears 33, Detroit Lions 17