The Chicago Bears (3-0) travel to Detroit to face their NFC North rival Lions (2-1). Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson is a freak of nature and is arguably the best in the game.
Johnson is coming off a 2012 season, where he reeled in an NFL record 1,964 yards. Johnson fell 36 yards short due to a great defensive performance by Bears cornerback Charles Tillman in the season finale.
Tillman has shadowed Johnson during the last three meetings holding him under 90 yards receiving each time and without a touchdown. Tillman referred to Johnson this week as the “LeBron James of wide receivers.”
Tillman hasn’t practiced all week due to knee and groin injuries, but he vows he will “be there” on Sunday in Detroit. Unfortunately, he won’t be shadowing Johnson the entire game.
The Bears might be forced to use 6’1″ cornerback Zack Bowman on Johnson considering Tillman’s health and the fact that Pro Bowler Tim Jennings stands at just 5’8″.
It will be a tough task for the Bears secondary. In 11 career games however Johnson has averaged just 72.8 yards per game. Johnson has gone over 100 yards receiving just twice against the Bears since arriving in the NFL in 2007.
The Lions are 3-9 against the Bears since 2007, Johnson has four touchdown in those 12 matchups.
Johnson who has been limited all week in practice has 17 receptions for 268 yards and three touchdowns in three games this season. The Bears’ defense has recorded five interceptions with Tillman leading the way with two.
Bowman will have his hands full with Johnson. He has just one tackle this season for this defense. Expect to see safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright step up to help Bowman or Tillman cover Johnson.
Johnson is sick of losing to the Bears and underperforming against their tough defense in the process.
“Can’t stand it,” Johnson said when asked how all that suffering fuels this rivalry (via Detroit News). “For one thing they fill (our) stadium a lot. There’s always a lot of Bears fans, and that’s one reason we can’t stand it.”
The Bears can’t forget another key weapon on the Lions offense, running back Reggie Bush. Bush returns after missing last week with a knee injury. He has practiced without limitations all week.
In two career games against the Bears (2006, 08), Bush has 10 carries for 49 yards and nine catches for 148 yards and a touchdown.
Both of those games came during his time with the New Orleans Saints. He had an impressive 88-yard touchdown catch against the Bears in the 2006 NFC Championship.
Bush and Johnson are matchup nightmares for the Bears especially with Tillman not 100 percent and the Bears pass defense a little vulnerable so far this season.
Containing Johnson will help ease the pain for this entire Bears defense. It certainly won’t be easy, but the Bears secondary needs to rally around each other. Zack Bowman, Chris Conte and Major Wright will all be leaned upon on Sunday more than we have seen so far this season.
It should be a fun one to watch as both teams have been very impressive on offense. Nothing beats an NFC North clash between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the division.
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