The Detroit Lions may be back back in a familiar spot—last place—but there is at least one important footnote this time: the spectacular season WR Calvin Johnson is having, breaking Jerry Rice's single-season reception yards record.
The Lions have been abysmal, and they are now in a position to land another top-three pick in the upcoming draft. Head coach Jim Schwartz is facing pressure and could be looking for a job at the end of the season.
In some ways, it could be back to the drawing board for the Lions franchise.
With all that’s happening in Detroit, it is an opportune time to play them; a team that has essentially quit on their head coach, is well out of postseason contention, and has no real reason to play up to their potential. In fact, it’s nearly the perfect time for the Bears to face the team they’ve beaten more than any other NFL franchise.
The Lions are currently riding a seven-game losing streak that includes losses at Arizona, Minnesota, and a last second loss against the Colts.
The Bears, on the other hand, have the playoffs nearly within reach, but they absolutely have to win this game to get there. I was hoping that this week Chicago would focus on the task at hand and not worry or comment on the happenings around the League, but that didn’t last long as the self-proclaimed best defensive tackle in the NFL, Henry Melton, fired this at the Detroit Lions’ locker room bulletin board:
“They’re dirty. They’ve always been a dirty team since I’ve been here,” Melton told ESPN Chicago’s Michael C. Wright. “I don't like them. We've just got to hold our composure and play the game we know.”
As of that weren’t enough, Bears’ safety Major Wright decided to tell the Chicago media that Matt Stafford, essentially, “folds under pressure.”
“You’ve got Matthew Stafford,” Wright said. “He’s definitely having an okay season. He can make any throw on that field, so you have to be aware of putting pressure on him because you put a little pressure on him, he kind of folds.”
Wright’s comments were not blatantly offensive, but could certainly be construed as a side-shot. Detroit’s offensive coordinator Scott Linehan certainly sounded annoyed and a tad short when asked about what Wright said. “I think a guy who’s thrown for nearly 10,000 yards and almost 60 touchdowns in two seasons holds up pretty good out there,” Linehan said.
Melton’s more obvious shot, however, is unwarranted and unnecessary heading into a must-win game. He’s handing out bulletin board material to a team who has little to play for.
The Lions’ demeanor in the past couple weeks has been poor, and outside of Calvin Johnson, they appear to have thrown up the white flag. In a game your team must win in order to potentially advance, there should be no reason to give the other guys some extra motivation to play their best football.
Lions players did in fact take exception to Melton calling them dirty. Detroit center Dominic Raiola issued a rebuttal specifically targeted at the Pro Bowl defensive tackle.
“You've got a defense full of superstars, and you don't hear from guys that carry weight in my book: Urlacher, Briggs, Tillman, Idonije, older guys. Peppers, guys who have been there,” Raiola said. “We're talking about guys that carry weight. This guy [Melton] is not in my book.”
Raiola continued, “This guy made the Pro Bowl? Kevin Williams, who worked through injuries all year, Suh, who’s a better player than this guy, he made the Pro Bowl? Come on.”
On the season, Melton has 41 total tackles, 29 solo, six sacks, two forced fumbles, and four STF in limited time. He missed a portion of the season due to a chest injury, but the fans and the League still felt he had the credentials to be selected to the Pro Bowl.
For most, the jury is still out on an inconsistent Melton, and he still has yet to prove himself through an entire 16-game season.
The Lions are a team with young, talented personal, and they have underachieved mightily this season. The Bears are only three-point favorites on the road, and this Lions team, even in losing seasons under head coach Jim Schwartz, has played the Bears tough. Extra motivation to eliminate Chicago from contention is not what you want lining up against you on Sunday.
Melton’s an opinionated player with good upside, and a player I hope wears a Bears jersey for a long time. He is one of the younger players who will have to help this defense stay relevant after the last regime retires. But he needs to learn when and when not to speak to media.
With all that said, the bottom line is that he and his teammates have to now go back-up his statements and win the game.