In 2009, the Detroit Lions headed to Soldier Field following their first win of the season.
Offensively, everything was smooth in the first half. Detroit put together three touchdowns drives, entering the locker room at halftime knotted with the Bears at 21.
But a combination of explosion plays, field position and Chicago’s defensive adjustments left Detroit outscored 27-3 in the second half.
This year, the Lions are hoping to change that with a greater defensive push up front in addition to a more-rounded and explosive offense.
“I think when they got two scores and we were behind – that’s kind of how they’re built,” said Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. “They’re built to get you one-dimensional and get you on 3rd-and-long.
“Our goal is to stay out of those situations so that we can try to handle their pressure with their four-man rush and things like that.”
One key component to handling Chicago’s pressure is establishing a strong running presence from the start.
Best looked good throughout the preseason and hasn’t played since the first offensive series of Detroit’s match-up with Cleveland.
“I’m excited,” said Best. “A little nervous, but mostly excited to get the season officially started.
“I try to ignore (people seeing me as the key to the offense). I know I’m going to have a significant role, but I just try to ignore it and take it one day at a time, one play at a time and do the best I can out there.”
Against the Bears – a team that has played a lot of Cover 2 in recent years – the Lions will need to meet whatever defensive challenge Chicago throws their way.
“They’re going to have to choose what they want to do,” said quarterback
“They can either come out and play Cover 2 – challenge us to run the football – or they come out in Cover 1 like they did last game and challenge us to throw it. It’s one of those things where we’ve got to be good at both and I think we have the weapons to do that.”
Last year’s match-up at Soldier Field demonstrated how defensive adjustments can be difficult to overcome.
“We understand what Rod (Marinelli) likes to do – he definitely likes his Cover 2 and likes to get pressure with the front four,” said Johnson.
“Hopefully we stop that pressure and we’re able to do what we do on the outside. I think if we’re able to stop the pressure of the front four, they’ll have to bring another man down in the box and we’ll have some one-on-one match-ups on the outside.”
Stopping that pressure will have a lot to do with running the football.
If the Lions can create enough of a running threat, the Bears will have to adjust to stop it – leaving Johnson and Detroit’s other top weapons with one-on-one match-ups in the passing game.
“We’ve talked about (how we) as a group want to be more explosive offensively,” said Linehan. “Now we have to go out as a group and prove. I think some of the new players certainly give us a chance to do that.
“To score points in this division against a team like Chicago, you have to find ways to make big plays and get in the endzone.”