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O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: What does win do for playoff hopes?

Posted Dec 16, 2017

Mike O'Hara answers all of the burning questions following the Detroit Lions' 20-10 victory over the Chicago Bears.

Burning questions: The Detroit Lions coming out running, getting the advantage with big plays on both sides and taking command to stay in the playoff race with a 20-10 victory over the Chicago Bears at Ford Field Saturday.

Question: What did the victory mean for the Lions’ playoff hopes, and what impact did it make on other teams?

Answer: The Lions were in a must-win situation for the second straight week, and they stayed alive again by winning – as they did last week by beating Tampa Bay.

It’s still a long shot for the Lions to make the playoffs with an 8-6 won-loss record with two games left, but it would have been no shot had they lost.

One thing they did by winning Saturday is put pressure on the teams ahead of them that have games Sunday and Monday. They can’t afford to slip up. They have to win. It’s not much – an added dose of pressure – but it means something.

Q. Coming through: It was a ragged game in a lot of ways, but what was the key for the Lions after taking a 13-3 lead into the second half?

A. The big thing was keeping the Bears from making a serious run, and they did that. Darius Slay intercepted rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s pass on the Bears first possession of the second half.

The Lions turned that into Matthew Stafford’s second touchdown pass of the game – an eight-yard pass to Eric Ebron – to boost the lead to 20-3.

It was the kind of defensive play the Lions needed to keep control of the game. They got another in the fourth quarter on an interception in the end zone by Quandre Diggs.

By no means was it a perfect game by the Lions, but they made winning plays in the clutch.

Q. Surprise stat: What was the most surprising stat of the first half? Was it the 13-3 lead for the Lions, who’ve been notorious for being behind this year?

A. No. That was a nice stat, and the most important one. But there was another one that could not have been predicted.

The Lions had a 77-19 lead in rushing yards. Nobody could have predicted it, and it wouldn’t have been a surprise if it had been just the opposite.

The Lions went into the game averaging 76.3 yards per game on the ground, and they went over their average in the first half. Nothing could have been more surprising.

Q. First half key: What was the big play for the Lions in the first half?

A. It was the 58-yard bomb to Marvin Jones Jr. in the second quarter. It set up the Lions’ first touchdown for a 13-0 lead.

The offense was in a hole at its own 30, with third and 10, and Stafford was under pressure as he dropped to pass. He moved out of the pocket to his right, stopped and threw the ball about 65 yards in the air. Jones caught it at the Bears’ 12-yard-line.

Stafford’s three-yard TD pass to TJ Jones on third and one gave the Lions a 13-0 lead.

Q. Turning point: Is that what you’d call that sequence – the big catch by Marvin Jones Jr., and the TD catch by TJ Jones?

A. It wasn’t a turning point because the Lions already had the lead. But instead of punting the ball back to the Bears with a 6-0 lead, the Lions took firmer control with a 13-point lead. That gave them some breathing room.

Q. Big penalty – Bears: Tarik Cohen returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to the Lions’ 14, but the return was nullified by a penalty on the Bears. The ball was taken back to the Bears’ 10. How much did that hurt the Bears?

A. It was a huge play for the moment. The Bears were in position to get at least a field goal and maybe a touchdown. Instead, they put together a mini-drive and wound up punting. They got nothing.

Q. First half finish: How much did the Lions hurt themselves with a penalty against Kenny Golladay for offensive interference, and a fumble by Theo Riddick that gave the Bears time to kick a field goal?

A. It wasn’t the way they wanted to end the half. The penalty on Golladay – and it was a good call -- wiped out a big gain that would have put the Lions in position to add to their lead with a field goal or touchdown.

Riddick's fumble gave the ball to the Bears at the Lions’ 27 with 12 seconds left. They had time to kick a field goal with two seconds left to make it 13-3.

Q. Clamping down: What did it show that the Lions put the clamps on in the second half to stay in control and win?

A. It’s what they had to do to stay in the playoff race, and they did. It wasn’t an artistic second half by either team, but the Lions made winning plays.

The Lions executed a chain of plays – Slay’s interception on Chicago’s first possession. Stafford following that with a TD pass to Eric Ebron. And an interception by Diggs in the end zone to kill a Bears scoring threat.

It’s still a long shot for the Lions to make the playoffs, but they’ve put pressure on the teams ahead of them to keep winning.

They did what they had to do.