O'Hara's Monday Countdown: My prediction: Lions 23, Bears 13

Posted Oct 22, 2012

"This week’s Monday Countdown focuses on the Lions-Bears – how they raised their standard and must continue to meet it."

CHICAGO --If pro football had an official guide to proper etiquette, it should be two sentences:

No bad deed of legal violence will go unrewarded.

When legal, piling on and second and third and fourth helpings are encouraged.

Football is a hard, tough game, and the toughest of the tough – mentally and physically – survive and win.

During the Bye before last week’s game at Philadelphia, the Lions talked among themselves about being tougher on the field. They talked their talk from the meeting room to the playing field.

They weren’t perfect by any means, but their intensity and energy was elevated, and it showed in a 26-23 overtime win over the Eagles.

If they are to make a serious playoff run, they need more of the same in their Monday Night TV game against the Bears at Soldier Field.

Playing tough doesn’t guarantee winning. The NFL isn’t MMA or WWE. Playing smart and being fundamentally sound counts heavily.

The Bears were tough going into last week’s bye. The statistics show that. They lead the NFC North with a 4-1 record, and their defense is ranked No. 1 in four categories, including stopping the run and points allowed.

I like how the Lions have started to play. Before last week, they played as if they were worried about what other people thought of them.

They were ready for a fight against the Eagles, and they should survive against the Bears to fight another day.

My prediction: Lions 23, Bears 13.

This week’s Monday Countdown focuses on the Lions-Bears – how they raised their standard and must continue to meet it, the revenge-rivalry issue, and now the Lions played their most complete quarter of the season in a short stretch against the Eagles.

There’s also a look at what Louis Delmas and Chris Houston mean to the defense, how the Bears have succeeded with their philosophy, and a perspective on two Lions role players.

There is also a tip in item No. 10 for how fans can prepare for the Bears-Game at an event featuring one of Detroit’s top football writers, and the NFL’s best and worst:

Will start the Lions’ attitude:

1. Keep the edge: The Lions should be in a season-long rage for how they played in losses to the Titans and Vikings – particularly the Titans.

The special teams gave up a pair of TD returns in both games, and those breakdowns are directly responsible for the Lions having a 2-3 record.

Losing to Minnesota at home was inexcusable, but understandable. Minnesota is a developing young team and one of the early surprises with a 4-2 record.

But losing to the Titans anywhere was simply unacceptable. The Titans have allowed a league-high 204 points, and only four teams that have played six games have scored fewer than their 114 points – 44 of which came against the Lions.

It remains to be seen if last week’s game in Philly was a resurrection Sunday, but it was a start.

“What happens is, a lot is made of our 1-3 start, and we’ve made a lot of getting out of a 1-3 start,” Coach Jim Schwartz said. “The way you do it is, you’ve got to put good games on top of each other. and last week was probably our best team effort from all three phases.

“We’re going to need the same thing.”

2. A quarter (almost) report: It wasn’t a full quarter, and by strict definition, an overtime period does not count as a quarter.

Forget semantics. The Lions were a complete team in overtime against Philly.

First the defense held, sacking Michael Vick on first and second down and forcing an incomplete pass on third-and-31.

The offense got the ball at the 50 and moved to the Eagles’ 27.

And the special teams – Jason Hanson’s right foot – provided the winning margin with a 45-yard field goal, with a right-to-left wind.

It was 3:55 of faultless football – with one exception. Stefan Logan fumbled the punt but fell on it to retain possession for the Lions.

3. Houston, no problem: Cornerback Chris Houston has a tough chore defending Brandon Marshall, but he’s used to going against the opponent’s best receiver.

In the last three games, he’s gone mouthgard-to-mouthguard against the Titans’ Kenny Britt, the Vikings’ Percy Harvin and the Eagles’ DeSean Jackson without allowing a TD.

Houston is playing his best ball as a Lion since returning from an injury that caused him to miss the first two games.

Marshall has speed to go with size (6-4, 230 pounds), and he’s in sync with Bears QB Jay Cutler, a former teammate in Denver.

Marshall has 35 catches, three TDs and a 14.2-yard average per catch.

“I’ll see him quite a bit,” Houston said. “He’s a big physical receiver. He’s in my top five receivers in the game. It’s going to be a challenge the whole game.

“I’ve been doing it these past weeks. The coaches gave me the green light.”

4. Louie, Louie: Was Louis Delmas ever ready to go last week. It was his first game of the season, and it cannot be overstated how much his energy means to the defense – in practice, pre-game warm-ups and during the game.

Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham talked over the weekend about hearing Delmas sing in the tunnel before the game.

“Lou brought the energy,” Cunningham said. “I’m always out before the players come out and he started that thing. I had chills. I was so excited. He’s the leader of the pack coming to that, and he took us up a level. There’s no doubt about that.”

Delmas has the best explosive speed of any Lions' safety, and Cunningham used it to blitz last week. The Lions had three sacks, 11 hits on Vick and 10 tackles-for-loss.

Delmas had two tackles for loss, an interception and a pass breakup, and he had more impact than those stats indicate. An effective blitz forces the offensive line to make adjustments. The Lions won a lot of those battles.

“He has the best suddenness out of the secondary other than maybe Ed Reed,” Cunningham said, referring to the Ravens’ Hall of Fame-worthy safety.

5. Cutler does it – again and again: TV cameras follow Bears quarterback Jay Cutler like he’s a member of England’s royal family. Sooner or later – and usually sooner – he’ll expose some kind of controversy.

Once this year, he walked away from offensive coordinator Mike Tice in a huff. And during a 23-10 beat-down by the Packers, when he was sacked seven times, Cutler shoved offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb.

Push came to shove after that game, and Cutler’s offensive line has protected him. He’s been sacked only five times in a three-game winning streak against the Rams, Cowboys and Jaguars.

The Jaguars’ defense ranks last in the league in sacks per play, but the Cowboys are 12th and the Rams 10th.

The Lions are 17th. No guarantees they’ll get to Cutler.

6. Revenge or rivalry? The two franchises have been playing since 1930, when the Lions were in Portsmouth, Ohio. They moved to Detroit in 1934. It’s natural for hard feelings and rivalries to build up over time. The current escalation of hostilities dates to Nov. 13 of last year – a 37-13 Bears victory at Soldier Field.

Ndamukong Suh knocked off Cutler’s helmet with a legal tackle. Brandon Pettigrew accidentally made contact with an official while engaged in a pushing match with a Chicago player.

And most famously, Matthew Stafford pulled down Bears reserve defensive back D.J. Moore by the back of his helmet after an interception.

“I like to call it a rivalry game, bad—blood game – all of the above,” Calvin Johnson said. “That’s the attitude you have to have going into it.”

Stafford was asked if exchanged Christmas cards with Moore.

“No,” he said. “I lost his address.”

The takedown on Moore cost Stafford a $7,500 fine from the NFL police.

7. Lovie – no love: Bears coach Lovie Smith isn’t looking for love at Soldier Field Monday night.

He embraces the atmosphere of a rivalry.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to be in a division when you’re playing a division opponent,” Smith said in a conference-call interview with the Detroit media. “There shouldn’t be any love lost. You shouldn’t be sending each other Christmas cards, and we don’t.

“This is a strong division, also. So that’s just a part of it. We’re expecting a good, hard-fought game, and we can’t wait.”

8. Bear football: Smith did a smart thing when he became head coach of the Bears in 2004. He inherited a solid defense – and added to it. In a conference-call interview a couple years after going to Chicago, he said he wanted to make one side of the ball as strong as possible.

The Bears are showing some age. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is in his 13th season. It’s the 10th season for cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs. All three were drafted by the Bears.

Defensive end Julius Peppers was a premier free agent when the Bears signed him in 2010.

The Bears are the only team in the league that hasn’t give up a pass play of 40 yards or longer, and the passer rating against them is a league-low 60.0.

Their league-best average of 65.8 rushing yards allowed per game is off the charts.

This will be center Dominic Raiola’s 25th start against the Bears. He is so familiar with the Bears’ personnel that he probably can tell if Urlacher and Briggs have flossed their teeth on game day.

Raiola can count on one thing: no surprises. The Bears have a belief in their system and stick with it.

“It all comes down to playing together and doing their system,” he said. “They do it right. If you don’t do it right, you don’t play for them.”

9. Young Young =: Not much so far. Third-year defensive end Willie Young and second-year wide receiver Titus Young were supposed to produce as role players, but it hasn’t happened so far.

Willie Young’s strong performance in the exhibition made it seem like he was just waiting to take over at one end. But without a sack, and very little pressure, he’s waiting.

Titus Young has immense talent. He can get instant separation against coverage, but his inconsistency and lack of production is a puzzle.

A deep sideline pass in Game 4 against the Vikings slid through his hands. Last week at Philly, he dropped a deep post in stride. Through give games, he has 11 catches for 123 yards and a TD. The TD was a fluke – a 46-yard deflection on a desperation pass against the Titans.

Young’s other 10 receptions have gained 77 yards.

9a. For good reason, I’m taking editorial license to add this before item No. 10.

I’ve mentioned the Bears’ consistency, improved pass protection and tough defense.

So why the heck am I picking the Lions?

Great question.

Answer: Monday night – one way or the other.

10. A good read: Dino’s in Fabulous Ferndale is hosting a book-signing appearance Paula Pasche, who has written “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die.”

Pasche is the Lions’ beat writer for the Oakland Press and the senior writer among those regularly covering the Lions. The book has too many good items to mention here, and no bad ones, and includes a chapter on the Bears-Lions rivalry.

Dino’s is on Woodward Ave., just south of Nine Mile Rd. Festivities begin at 5 p.m.