The Lions-Bears series dates back all the way to 1930 when the Lions were the Portsmouth Spartans. The teams split their season series last year, both winning at home (Lions on Monday night). The Lions have a 24-44-4 record on the road vs. the Bears.
2012 REGULAR SEASON RANKINGS (Rank)
|Points per game||25.2 (12)||29.8 (2)|
|Total yards per game||419.6 (2)||346.2 (20)|
|Rushing yards||99.8 (19)||123.6 (10)|
|Passing yards||319.8 (2)||222.6 (23)|
|Points allowed||27.4 (24)||14.2 (1)|
|Total yards allowed||324.0 (9)||391.2 (3)|
|Rushing yards allowed||96.4 (12)||65.8 (1)|
|Passing yards allowed||227.6 (16)||225.4 (14)|
|Turnover ratio||-1 (18t)||9 (3t)|
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Receivers not named
Johnson can’t do it all by himself. He’s gotten some help from
“We (need to) get these guys some 100 yard games and I think it’s easy to do that,” Johnson said Friday. “It shouldn’t be really hard, especially if they’re going to be playing the coverage they’re playing on my side of the field. These guys have some opportunities to have some great games.”
They haven’t been taking advantage of it, though, especially Young, who has just 11 catches on the year.
In his past five road games, Johnson has 44 catches for 851 yards (170.2 per game) and four touchdowns.
Can he get a little help, though?
The second-year back is coming off his most efficient performance of the season when he averaged 4.7 yards per carry and gained 70 yards in a win at Philadelphia last week.
Monday will be a homecoming of sorts for Leshoure, who grew up in Champaign and played his college football at Illinois. Leshoure has 228 scrimmage yards (114 per game) in two road games this season.
“You see big backs like that as the game wears on, you really saw him start to heat up getting into the second half,” Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “So I think that’s going to be his style. He’s got to obviously be a guy that you can give the ball to a number of snaps and hold up through four quarters.”
The Bears are No. 1 in the league against the run and have been successful taking teams out of the run this season, allowing them to set their defensive line loose on the quarterback. The Lions have to stick with the run Monday and have to get some production out of Leshoure if they hope to keep quarterback
I’d expect the Lions to utilize the Reiff package a lot against the Bears. It also has the potential to also slow down a Bears pass rush (18 sacks) in throwing situations.
“He’s getting close,” Linehan said of Reiff becoming a starter. “I don’t know what day that day will be. A lot of times the situation of the game takes care of that. But we’re getting a lot of good production out of a rookie player and I think he’s gaining confidence with his time on the field right now.”
Reiff played 22 snaps as an extra lineman in their jumbo package and was very effective against the Eagles. The Bears defense is great against the run and using Reiff could serve the Lions good against a terrific defense. It's never a bad idea to get, probably their best-run blocker, on the field.
Jay Cutler, QB:
Cutler has a career 105.0 passer rating in seven games against the Lions with 10 touchdowns and one interception. Like Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Cutler has a strong arm and relies on that heavily.
If defenses get to him early, though, he can get frustrated and he's shown that it can affect his play. We saw that against the Packers when he was pressured and sacked seven times in their only loss of the season and Cutler imploded on the sideline.
Cutler has some of the most natural talent in the league, and if the Lions allow him to get comfortable back there it could be a long night for their defense.
Tim Jennings/Charles Tillman, CBs:
Tillman gets most of the press, but Jennings has been playing very well through five games this season. He’s tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions and was the NFC Defensive Player of the Month in September. He’s also deflected two passes that have resulted in interceptions. Jennings has five interceptions over past six games.
Tillman has two interceptions and he’s returned both for touchdowns. Since joining the NFL in 2003, Tillman is among the top 10 in the league in interceptions, forced fumbles and passes defended.
Both corners are physical by nature and Lions receivers should expect that type of game. The Lions receiver corps has recently come up with a "no more Mr. Nice Guy" theme. It'll be put to the test tonight against those corners.
Julius Peppers, DE:
Peppers doesn’t lead the Bears in sacks (2.5), but he’s still the guy opposing offenses keep a close track of. He’s been a particular thorn in the Lions’ side (10 sacks in eight games vs. the Lions).
Peppers and the Bears are looking at this game as a chance to separate themselves from the Lions and the rest of the NFC North.
“We’re coming off a bye so we got rested and we got most of the guys healthy,” he said this week. “This is just a game where we’re coming back and we’re trying to get back and pick up where we left off. You know, we left off on a good note down in Jacksonville with a big win. So we need another one. Huge game in the division for us, a chance to create some separation so, you know, we’re just focused on getting a win.”
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Protect the franchise
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford dropped back to pass 45 times last week against the Eagles and was not sacked once. Actually, he was hit only three times. The offensive line was excellent in pass protection and was efficient in the run game in their best all-around performance by the line this season.
Now they get a Bears defense that’s No. 1 against the run and has 18 sacks in five games. Of those 18 sacks, 16 have come from the defensive line. They'll need a similar effort this week to help Stafford make plays down the field against a stingy defense that has yet to allow a play of more than 40-plus yards this season.
What the Lions defense did to Eagles running back LeSean McCoy last week (22 rushing yards) was one of the big keys to that victory.
Forte has four touchdowns (2 rush, 2 rec.) in past four meetings against the Lions. If the Lions can limit Forte - like they did McCoy last week - and force the Bears into throwing situations, the Bears' offensive line hasn’t proven they can keep Cutler clean for a whole game.
“He’s made big plays against us,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of Forte. “He’s a good running back. He’s a guy, a lot like McCoy, he can run inside but he’s a very good parameter threat. He’s a good screen threat and we’re going to have to bring our very best to get him stopped.”
Kick or not to kick to Hester?
After giving up four return touchdowns in their previous two games, the Lions held the Eagles in check last week and got their special teams back on the right track. On Monday they face the greatest kick return man in the history of football in Chicago’s Devin Hester.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz still doesn’t have a ton of confidence in his special teams. After a couple penalties allowed the Lions to kick off from the Eagles 45-yard line last week, Schwartz opted to kick the ball through the end zone instead of trying to get cute and try a pooch kick or onside kick.
I’d expect Schwartz and the Lions not to get cute against Hester and choose to instead kick the ball through the end zone on kickoffs (depending on the wind) and punt the ball out of bounds.
Marshall vs. Houston
Part of that is not having a guy like Eric Wright on the other side, but mostly it’s because Houston has been so good doing it.
He’s played well three-straight weeks against the likes of Percy Harvin, Kenny Britt and DeSean Jackson. Next up is one of the top receivers in the game in Brandon Marshall. Marshall has more than double the receptions of any other Bears receiver. Shutting down Marshall will go a long way to limiting the Bears passing offense tonight.
Win third down
The Bears have been one of the best third-down football teams in the NFL this season and it’s no surprise they sport a 4-1 record, either. The Bears are converting nearly 43 percent of third third-down chances on offense and limiting opponents to just 28.8 percent on defense.
The Lions haven’t been very good converting on third down this season, ranking in the bottom third of the league (33.8). They’re in the middle of the pack on defense on third down (37.5).
With two very good defensive fronts on display tonight, the team that stays out of third-and-long situations and converts their makeable third downs is likely to win the game.