Another week, another game that requires the Bears to make some outstanding fourth quarter plays to get through another week undefeated. I was one of those clamoring for the Bears to get going earlier in games, but somehow, I don't think using the extra time to let the other team back into the game is what I expected.
Next up for the Bears, the Detroit Lions.
Last Year: The Lions were the lone NFC North team to not get double digit wins, as they finished the season 4-12.
This Year: They've gotten off to a decent start themselves, starting the season 2-1 after starting the year beating the Minnesota Vikings, losing to the Cardinals in week 2, and just last week beating the Redskins 27-20.
When Last We Met: The Bears just may have been responsible for a pair of those losses. The teams met in Week 7 last year and again in week 17, with the Bears winning 13-7 and 26-24, respectively.
Total Yardage: 1,232 (4th)
Total Points: 82 (6th)
Passing Yardage: 1,008 (2nd)
Rushing Yardage: 224 (26th)
The Lions' main avenue of moving the ball is still through the air, but losing your number 2 receiver to a single-car accident through pizza sucks. Nate Burleson had a pretty good game last week and was the team leader in receptions with 19 (Calvin Johnson still has 17, so don't worry, he's still really good). But one thing the Lions are doing more is getting their running backs involved in the passing game; Joique Bell and Reggie Bush both fit that receiver out of the backfield mold (Bell has three rushing touchdowns while Bush has the one receiving touchdown).
Total Yardage: 1,098 (18th)
Total Points: 69 (16th)
Passing Yardage: 786 (18th)
Rushing Yardage: 312 (15th)
The Lions made a significant investment in their defense by going with first-round defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who was essentially the defensive equivalent of Kyle Long - lots of potential, some good play, and not much film or experience. And like Long, Ansah's putting together a start that shows off that potential, as he leads the Lions with 2.5 sacks. The Lions' pass rush is still pretty strong even with the departures of Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, as Nick Fairley is putting together some of his own potential up the middle. Jason Jones has hit IR, which means Ansah could get the start, or it could go to rookie Devin Taylor or former Bear Israel Idonije.
The back seven also got a little help as Darius Slay's started two of the team's three games, and Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy both have interceptions and some decent tackle numbers. The defense isn't a wall of paper anymore; it's taken several steps towards being statistically average, which has the potential to make a good offensive team that much more dangerous.
If the Bears do this...
This may well be a game the Bears continue to unleash the short passing game to try to neutralize the Lions' pass rush. Matt Forte's utility in the swing and screen game as well as running the ball will attempt to keep the Lions' defensive line off balance - the pass rush is too good to simply challenge the Lions' secondary deep consistently. I'd say the Bears' best chance to get things going would be to start short and build deep with play-action.
If the Lions do this...
Nate Burleson's injury hampers the passing game for the Lions to a degree, but they still have Calvin Johnson and Charles Tillman's a little gimpy. Plus, the Lions' offensive line continues to be decent pass-blockers, including the addition of draft pick Larry Warford and Riley Reiff taking over left tackle. If the Bears can't get any defensive-line penetration again, especially with Henry Melton out for the year, they'll have to blitz more, and leaving Johnson man-up on a defensive back sounds like a problem.
Taking the first two divisional games and advancing to 4-0 would be a huge start for this team's hopes of taking the division. This game starts in the trenches; whoever wins that battle wins the game.