It’s snuck up on us, but the NFL is back. 2020 is such a weird year, there hasn’t been the normal build up of excitement from the start of training camp, to preseason games, to cell phone footage of camp practices, etc. to get the hype building.
So we’ve had to settle for team-released footage and tweets from reporters to get us fired up, and now the season is finally upon us.
For the Bears, it’s going to be an interesting season, but like so many before it will be defined by questionable quarterback play and a dominating defense. If the offense can muster “passable” play, they could be in the playoff mix. Anything less and the best they can hope for is another 8-8 type year like last season.
It all starts Sunday in Detroit, a familiar foe and one that the Bears have had success against, especially Mitch Trubisky, who has a few teams he’s dominated against, so that seems noteworthy.
Detroit, also much like the Bears, appears to be trying to break out of their own annual groundhog’s day. The Lions are trying to avoid being the bottom team in the NFC North for a third straight year, as questions swirl around their head coach.
Another year, same old Bears and same old Lions. Or so it seems.
Last year the wheels fell off of Detroit when they lost Matthew Stafford, but their defense was atrocious too.
Both teams are looking to get better in 2020 and find some success that’s alluded them for years. Sunday is all about getting off on the right foot.
SB Nation site: Pride of Detroit
Record (last year): 3-12-1
Game day, time, TV: Sunday, noon CT, FOX
Bears all-time record against: 101-74-5
Historical meetings: The Bears last met the Lions in week one back in 2010. Oh yes, the infamous, process of the catch game.
The Bears trailed 14-13 with 3:21 on the clock and Jay Cutler drove the team down and threw a 28-yard touchdown to Matt Forte with 1:40 left.
Shaun Hill, who came in for Matthew Stafford following the latter’s second quarter injury on a sack by Julius Peppers, got the Lions from their own 17-yard line to Chicago’s 25 with 31 seconds left.
On second and 10, Hill throws an apparent game-winning touchdown to Calvin Johnson in the back of the endzone. The play goes under review and then the now-infamous “process of the catch” rule is brought up.
The ball popped out of Johnson’s hands after the hit the turf in the Bears’ endzone. No catch, no touchdown, Bears force two more incomplete passes and eek out a 19-14 win.
Last meeting: Mitchell Trubisky balled out on Thanksgiving, throwing three touchdowns and 338 yards against David Blough and the Lions.
The Bears trailed in the third quarter 17-7 before an Eddy Pineiro kick and a Jesper Horsted touchdown tied the game.
In the fourth, Matt Prater hit a field goal to give the Lions a slight lead. After trading punts, the Bears got the ball back with 6:40 on the clock. Trubisky then delivered one of his best moments of last season.
He led a nine-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that took 4:23 off the clock and included two 30-plus yard passes to Anthony Miller and culminated in a three-yard touchdown pass to David Montgomery.
Despite driving the Lions to the Bears’ 26, a sack by Roquan Smith and an Eddie Jackson interception ended the Lions threat and the Bears returned to Chicago as turkey day victors.
Injury report: The Lions’ Wednesday injury report listed the following:
Did not participate: TE Hunter Bryant (hamstring), S C.J. Moore (hamstring)
Limited participation: WR Danny Amendola (hamstring), DL Da’Shawn Hand (groin), DE Julian Okwara (knee), CB Darryl Roberts (groin), RB D’Andre Swift (hip), WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring), T Halapoulivaati Vaitai (foot)
Offense: The Lions finished last season ranked 18th in points and 17th in yards. Their passing offense was ranked 10th in yards and their rushing offense ranked 21st.
Their passing prowess didn’t take as big of a hit as one might expect considering they lost Matthew Stafford halfway through the year. He’s back now though and should be in his usual form. When he was lost for the season he had 2,499 yards with a 64.3 percent completion percentage and had 19 touchdowns and five interceptions.
They return Golladay (65 rec./1,190 yards/11 TD in 2019), Marvin Jones (62/779/9) and Danny Amendola (62/678/1) in their receiver spots and second year TE T.J. Hockenson (32/367/2).
Their rushing attack includes the returning Kerryon Johnson (113 att./403 yards/3 TDs) and newcomer second round draft pick D’Andre Swift (Georgia). However, they signed Adrian Peterson this week and there’s rumors he might start for them. Swift was hurt in the spring and Johnson has an injury history that gives the Lions enough concern to consider a 35-year-old just-signed RB their starter.
Their offensive line lost Rick Wagner but they signed Halapoulivaati Vaitai to replace him. They also brought in former Packers receiver Geronimo Allison.
Oh yeah, and if something were to happen to Stafford, familiar face Chase Daniel would replace him.
Defense: The Lions defense has been overhauled following a year in which they finished 26th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed.
They gave up the most passing yards in the league last season and finished 21st in rushing yards allowed.
After that showing, Matt Patricia spent much of the offseason remaking the side of the football that is supposed to be his specialty.
Darius Slay was traded and they drafted Ohio State stand out Jeff Okudah. They also released Damon Harrison (“Snacks”) and let A’Shawn Robinson and Mike Daniels walk.
They then traded for S Duron Harmon from New England and signed OLB Jamie Collins, DT Nick Williams, CB Desmond Trufant and DT Danny Shelton.
Patricia is going to be trying to get these guys to play his brand of a 4-3.
It should be noted that newly-crowned starter Mitchell Trubisky has found particular success against Patricia’s defense. Patricia’s tendency for what-you-see-is-what-you-get certainly helps the embattled QB, who hasn’t been particularly good at reading defenses and figuring out disguises.
The unit returns players such as Devon Kennard (7 sacks/1 forced fumble/9 tackles for loss/15 QB hits in 2019), Trey Flowers (7 sacks/2 FF/8 TFL/21 QB hits) and leading tackler Tracy Walker (103 tkls/8 PD/6 TFL).
Other than that, this unit really didn’t have a lot of bright spots last season.
Key match ups: First and foremost in everyone’s mind is going to be Mitch Trubisky against the Lions secondary. Whether it’s a smokescreen or not, it sounds like Okudah isn’t ready to crack the starting line up, so Trubisky should see some favorable match ups among his WRs against the Detroit secondary that was awfully generous last season.
The Bears could be without David Montgomery, or want to take it easy with him coming off his groin injury. If that’s the case it could be the Tarik Cohen/Ryan Nall/Cordarrelle Patterson show. None of those guys screams “workhorse” back so look for a lot of substitutions and interesting packages from Matt Nagy.
The Bears overhauled tight end unit should also see some favorable match ups; a season ago the only two touchdowns scored by the Bears’ sad-sack TE group came against the Lions (Jesper Horstead, week 13, Ben Braunecker, week 10).
For the defense, it’s going to be about how the corners handle the Lions WRs. We know what we get in Kyle Fuller, but new starter Jaylon Johnson facing Marvin Jones will be tested.
Seeing how the Bears’ deep pass rush faces off against the Detroit OL, especially new starter Vaitai, will be a key to pressuring Matt Stafford.
What to watch for: It’s Bears football baby! We have to take whatever small joys 2020 gives us at this point, and NFL football coming back is definitely one of those little victories.
That said, how about seeing how Mitch Trubisky does? I think that it’s fair to say that even the most staunch Trubisky Truthers would say that the bar is set pretty low. Hardly anyone (no one?) is expecting a light switch flip and elite play from Mitch, but if he visibly looks like he’s taken a step forward and plays more competently, then it will mean good things going forward in 2020.
Let’s also see the return of Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack and company and see what kind of havoc they’re going to bring this year to opponents.
Key stats: Three of Mitch Trubisky’s career 300-yard passing games have come against Detroit, including a career-high 355 yards in week 10 2018.
Eddie Jackson also has some career highlights against Detroit: his two INTs and 6 PDs are the most he has against any one team.
The Bears have won four straight games against the Lions.
Chicago has lost six straight season opening games. Their last win came in week one of 2013 against the Bengals. All but one of those week one losses was by less than one score.
The Lions haven’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since 2013.
Never forget: The Lions fired a coach with a 36-28 record and two playoff berths to hire a guy who has gone 9-22-1.
The Lions come in riding an eight-game losing streak, having not won since week 8 of last season (Oct. 27) against the Giants.
Will the Bears get their first week one win in seven years? What do they need to do to beat the Lions?