Five Players To Watch: Week 13 (Bennett, Bostic, Hurst, Jones, Mariani)

Five Players To Watch: Week 13 (Bennett, Bostic, Hurst, Jones, Mariani)
The Bears travel to Detroit for a Thanksgiving Day battle. These are five players to watch in this NFC North meeting.

The Bears haven’t made an appearance on Thanksgiving Day since a 21-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in 2004.

On Thursday, they’ll square off with divisional rival Detroit, who they last played on Thanksgiving in 1999.

The Bears trail the all-time series on Thanksgiving Day 8-7 dating back to 1935. The Lions have won three of the last four since 1991.

Detroit has dropped two straight road matchups against two first place teams in Arizona and New England, while the Bears started slow but ultimately beat last place Minnesota and Tampa Bay in back-to-back weeks.

The Lions (7-4) haven’t scored a touchdown in two weeks, putting just 15 points up on the scoreboard on Matt Prater field goals. The Bears (5-6) won both their games with the same score of 21-13 and nearly the same gameplan, solid defense and a good dose of catches and carries from Matt Forte.

It will be tough to find yards against the Lions’ third-ranked defense. You have to bet the Bears will try to change things up with some play action and short passes to try to open up the deep ball if at all possible against Ndamukong Suh and Co.

On a short week, heading on the road against an angry Lions team it sounds like an impossible feat for the Bears. But you never know with Marc Trestman’s group.

These are five players to watch when the Bears go to Detroit for a Thanksgiving Day meeting with the Lions.

Linebacker Christian Jones

It sure doesn’t look likely that Lance Briggs will suit up meaning the Bears will turn to undrafted rookie from Florida State Christian Jones. Jones had five tackles in last week’s win and a key fumble recovery on a David Bass strip-sack. Matt Forte scored on the very next play to put the Bears up for good. Jones played on 37 of 76 defensive snaps in spot duty. The Bears were in the nickel package often, but in base packages once Briggs left with a groin injury it was Jones and Bostic in carrying the load. Look for Jones to be asked to a lot more in this game.

Tight end Martellus Bennett

Bennett has been awfully quiet as of late, reeling in just eight receptions for 66 yards over the last two weeks. His 26-yard catch was the longest play from the Bears’ offense against Tampa Bay last Sunday, but prior to that Bennett wasn’t much of a factor. When asked to block he’s been huge for the Bears lining up in the backfield at times. Jay Cutler needs to get his big target involved especially in the redzone. Look for Bennett to have a bounce back performance against the Lions despite the tough matchup.

Linebacker Jonathan Bostic

Bostic was only credited with two tackles and a pass deflection after playing on 58 defensive snaps last week. He had a sure interception go right through his hands late in the last week’s win. He will have a big responsibility this week with Briggs likely out and D.J. Williams and Shea McClellin taking a back seat as of late. Bostic will have to keep the linebackers in their gaps and make sure everyone stays home. This is a huge game for the second-year man from UF.

Cornerback Demontre Hurst

You have to love the way Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is using Demontre Hurst. The second-year Oklahoma product has 13 tackles and a forced fumble over the last weeks. He’s been used as a blitzer and has come up big against the run and on deep balls. Hurst played on 58 defensive snaps last week and the Bears used their nickel base package more often than not which helped in the long run. It won’t be easy against the pass-happy Lions, but Hurst may be the secret weapon the Bears’ defense has needed since the season began against Buffalo.

Kick returner/wide receiver Marc Mariani

The 27-year-old Montana product returned to the field after spending the last two seasons on injured reserve due to a broken leg in 2012 and a shoulder injury last year. Although his numbers don’t jump out at you (3 punt returns for a net of zero yards and 2 kickoff returns for 46 yards), Mariani had something that was lacking from the three previous kick returners used this season, instinct. He added a 30-yard return following the Mike Evans touchdown/unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, setting the Bears’ offense up at their 45-yard-line. Mariani has 18 career kick returns indoors, averaging 26.8 yards per return.

Thoughts on the five players to watch? Make sure to leave a comment below.


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