In Enemy Territory: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

In Enemy Territory: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Bears host the Detroit Lions in a critical NFC North matchup. Here’s an in-depth game preview on the matchup between the two rivals as I analyze the Lions’ personnel, offensive/defensive schemes, key matchups and offer a score prediction.

On offense

In their last meeting, we saw two different Bears’ offenses. In the first half, we saw an offense that struggled mightily to protect QB Jay Cutler and were simply out of sync. In the second half, however, we saw an offense that showed the potential of how explosive it can be with the way they roared back to almost win the game.

The Bears’ offense is still not quite elite, but it has shown that it’s well on its way to joining that class.

In the Lions, the Bears will be facing a defense that ranks in the top 10 in pass rush efficiency and pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus. The strength on that Lions’ defense will always be their defensive line even with a much improved secondary.

In order for the Bears’ offense to have success against this Lions’ defense, they have to have a better showing than the last time they met. Here’s a look a key matchups on the offensive line:

RG Kyle Long vs. DT Ndamukong Suh

In his last meeting against Suh, Long had an up and down day; kind of what you expect from a first year player. Suh, on a few plays that day, made Long and Bears fans come back down to reality, showing that Long was still a rookie and that Suh is one of the best DTs in the game.

Offensive coordinator/o-line coach Aaron Kromer will likely not put the rookie in the same situation as before, and I expect Kromer to scheme against Suh. But Long and Suh will still have some one-on-one matchups. It will be quite interesting to see how Long fares the second go-round.

Along with the matchup between Long and Suh, the Bears need a solid game from Roberto Garza and Jordan Mills. Garza had a rough night against the Packers, and Mills had his usual up and down performance from a pass protection standpoint. Mills will likely see a heavy dose of Israel Idonije; a very tough match up for the rookie.

If the Bears’ pass protection holds up, you have to like the matchups on the outside. One in particular to keep an eye falls in the key matchup category …

WR Brandon Marshall vs. CB Chris Houston

Marshall had a great game this past Monday night against the Green Bay Packers’ secondary. It was refreshing to see head coach Marc Trestman designing plays to get Marshall open against a defense that had has the Bears’ number the past few years.

I think Marshall is due for a monster game against Houston, who has taken a couple steps back this season. With Jay Cutler returning back for this important NFC North matchup, Marshall should get a lot of passes coming in his direction.

What to look for in the passing game

  • Trestman sprinkled rookie WR Marquess Wilson into the offense this past Monday night against the Packers. It will be interesting to see if Trestman keeps gradually involving him in the offense. In my opinion, the Bears are one more solid WR away from getting to that next level as far as being in that elite group of offenses. Wilson at 6-4 is a lengthy WR with great size, equipped with good athleticism and decent speed. With nickel CB Dwight Bentley likely out for the game, there’s an opportunity for Trestman to expose that weakness in the Lions’ secondary with the raw, but very talented WR.
  • Earl Bennett’s involvement in the passing game been non-existent pretty much throughout the season. Against the Lions this Sunday, Bennett has a chance to separate himself ­from Wilson with a decent showing. Bennett still contributes to the offense as he’s a very good run blocker, but even in a pass-friendly offense, Bennett is not getting the job done. Bears need a good performance from Bennett or Wilson not only in this game, but moving forward in the season.

On defense

On defense, the game plan will certainly center around stopping No. 81 on the outside. Calvin Johnson is the best WR in the game hands down. He reminds me too much of a more athletic version of Randy Moss despite the fact that Moss is one of the freakiest athletes to ever lace up a pair of cleats; Johnson is that good.

Charles Tillman will likely draw the assignment on Johnson, but it is going to take more than that to neutralize him. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will obviously need to draw up an effective game plan to slow down Johnson.

The safeties can’t hang Tillman out to dry whenever the play is called for over the top help. Another way to slow Johnson down is getting to QB Matthew Stafford and knocking him down. Here are a few key matchups in the trenches to look out for:

LDE David Bass vs. RT Jason Fox

With Shea McClellin doubtful with a hamstring injury he suffered in practice earlier this week, the Bears will turn to rookie David Bass who they claimed off waivers before the season started. Tucker is hoping that Bass’ speed and relentless hustle off the edge can be too much for Fox, who is filling in for starting RT Corey Hillard.

DT Corey Wootton vs. RG Larry Warford

Because Stafford is not the most mobile QB in world, getting pressure up the middle could affect him  in the Lions’ passing offense. The Bears need a big game for Wootton, who is filling in at three-technique until new addition Jay Ratliff is back in game shape. Warford had a pretty decent game against Wootton the last time around, but since then Wootton has gotten a bit more comfortable playing inside. Wootton is one of the few DL the Bears need a big day from against the Lions’ o-line.

RDE Julius Peppers vs. LT Riley Reiff

We saw Peppers in the last meeting against the Lions have a dominate game, and he just came off a great performance on Monday night against the Packers. The Bears are going to need just about those same performance Sunday against Lions’ LT Reiff who has had an up and down season.

As the Bears try to make a strong push in the second half of this season, if Peppers can get back to his old form, it would certainly help a defense that needs all the help it can get. For Peppers, getting back to that old form starts this Sunday against the Lions.

Key aspect to look for on defense

The DL, LBs and safeties played brutally against the run this past Monday against the Packers. The Packers burned the Bears on the ground for 199 yards with rookie Eddy Lacy collecting 150 yards himself. Lacy is a big powerful back who is a load to get on the ground; the Bears face a different kind of back Sunday in Bush whose speed and elusiveness can turn a simple mistake into a big gain.

In their last meeting, the Bears allowed Bush to run for 139 yards. If Bush repeats the same effort, Tucker and this defense are certainly going to have a long day.

As explosive as the Lions’ offense can be with Johnson and Bush, if you are able to contain those two, you pretty much slow down a large majority of their offense. The second leading receiver for the Lions is Bush with 335 yards.

The Lions are still looking for that complimentary WR to Johnson, and right now that guy is currently not on the roster. Can the Bears slow down Megatron and Bush? Even though the defense has struggled mightily this season, I see the Bears’ defense containing the two Lions just enough to help the team squeak past with a victory.

Score Prediction: Bears 31, Lions 24

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