The Lions have been outscored 83-50 through the first three quarters in games this year. In the final quarter, they're outscoring opponents 73-51.
That’s a recipe that hasn’t earned them a whole lot of success and it won't earn them a win Monday in Chicago if they follow suit, either.
To say the Bears defense is good isn’t really giving them their due credit. The statistics alone are mind boggling. The Bears rank in the top seven in 10 different statistical categories on defense and are in the top three in seven of them. They’re third in total defense and No. 1 against the run, allowing on average just 65.8 yards per game.
The key for the Lions Monday will be not falling behind and a good way to accomplish that would be staying out of third-and-long situations. The Bears’ defense thrives on third down. This year, opponents are converting just 28.8 percent of the time on third down.
“This is a game where we have to play in front,” Lions guard
That’s exactly what happened the last time the Lions were in Chicago. The offense was moving the football early on, but two turnovers put the Lions at a deficit and, against an aggressive defense in windy conditions, the game quickly turned into an interception fest.
Stafford was also playing with a broken finger, but falling behind early had more to do with the outcome than any injury.
"In a perfect world you take a big lead and you ride it home," Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "But, like I said, you’ve got to give credit to the teams we’ve been playing. They’ve got some pretty good fellas that we’re trying to move the ball on and score on and we just got to keep plugging away. We’re improving and making adjustments as the game goes on which is a very positive sign.”
The Bears have been able to turn leads and long third down situations into turnovers. They lead the NFL with 17 and have returned five for touchdowns.
They are getting contributions at every level of their defense, including up front. Of the team’s 18 sacks, 16 have come from the defensive line.
The Lions are 22-of-65 on third down this season (33.8 percent), which ranks in the bottom third of the league. Against an aggressive defense with a good rush, staying in third-and-managable is vital.
The one thing the Lions won't be Monday is timid, according to Stafford. As he puts it, you have to counter an aggressive defense with your own brand of it.
“You can’t play tentative, you have to be aggressive,” he said. “We’re an aggressive offense by nature. We’re going to go out there and do what we do but at the same time you have to be conscious that these guys have a lot of confidence right now on defense and getting the ball back for their offense.”
Against a defense like the Bears', falling behind isn’t an option if the Lions hope to get back to .500 and back in the NFC North race. It's time to put a complete game together on offense.
"As critical as us trying to start fast is to be able to finish strong," Linehan said. "Once we put the two together I think we’ll be able to put together a complete game.”