The Detroit Lions are looking for their first win of the season on the road in Chicago today as they take on the division rival Bears. Here are five things to watch out for in today's contest:
1. SUSTAINED RUSH
Last week against Baltimore was arguably the best performance by Detroit's defense all season. They held the explosive Ravens' rushing attack, which leads the NFL through three weeks, to just 116 total yards on the ground. The Ravens were 1-for-10 on third down and saw the end zone just once.
Detroit's front played particularly well with four sacks and 19 quarterback hurries, most of that generated by their edge rotation of Romeo Okwara, Charles Harris, Austin Bryant and Julian Okwara.
Can the Lions keep up the attack this week against a Bears' offensive line that is reeling a bit after allowing nine sacks to Cleveland's defense in a loss last week? If the Lions can pressure the quarterback and make him feel uncomfortable, it will go a long way to putting back-to-back good defensive performances in the books.
2. 60 MINUTES OF FOOTBALL
Detroit is 0-3 on the year in the standings, and a big reason why is because they're 0-3 on the year in playing consistent football for 60 minutes. We've seen flashes of good play on both sides of the ball this year, but there's also been too many long lulls. During the first half against San Francisco, the second half in Green Bay and the first half in Baltimore, the Lions have been outscored 62-10. In the other halves of those games, the Lions held a 57-33 advantage.
The next step for this young Lions team under head coach Dan Campbell is to find a way to put together 60 minutes of consistent football and see where the chips fall at the end.
3. STRONG BEARS FRONT
Campbell, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and center Frank Ragnow all said this week Chicago is probably the best defensive front seven they'll face all season. Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn are arguably one of the best edge tandems in the league, especially with Quinn seemingly finding the fountain of youth early this season with his play (3.5 sacks).
Akiem Hicks' combination of speed and power makes him one of the best interior defenders in the NFL. Right behind the talented Bears front is three-time triple-digit tackler Roquan Smith at linebacker to clean everything up.
Today will be a terrific test to see how well Detroit's pass protection can hold up against one of the best defensive fronts the league has to offer, and if they can dictate their will upfront and run the football like they want to do, especially if weather is a factor today.
4. SWIFT & HOCK
Running back D’Andre Swift is coming off a terrific game in Baltimore where he recorded 107 total scrimmage yards and a touchdown. Swift leads all running backs in receptions and receiving yards. Campbell said this week the expectation is to see Swift's workload increase. He's quickly becoming one of the best dual-threat backs in the league.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson caught eight passes and a touchdown in each of Detroit's first two contests, but was held to just two targets and two receptions last week against the Ravens. Lions offensive coaches talked this week about having to be better scheming situations to get Hockenson away from the double team, which he saw more of last week. For his part, Hockenson said this week he just has to be better beating the double team.
Swift and Hockenson on the field together is starting to be a problem for defenses, especially with Swift's emergence in the passing game and his ability to beat a linebacker in single coverage. How much will the Lions use them on the field together, and how do they scheme up getting good matchups for both guys?
5. COMMUNICATION ON DEFENSE
The Lions had a number of breakdowns in the secondary last week with Ravens receivers running wide open. Detroit was a little lucky Baltimore failed to take advantage of more of those opportunities because of dropped balls.
Lions defensive coaches and players blamed a lack of communication for some of the breakdowns, and that's been a huge focus at practice this week. Safety Dean Marlowe said the players have really been demonstrative this week with their communication style, and the use of hand signals has been important for everyone being on the same page.
The Bears have completed only one pass of 20-plus yards this season, so the Lions certainly don't want this to be the week Chicago is able to push the ball down the field due to mistakes, blown coverages or a lack of communication in the secondary.