Detroit took a very conservative approach on offense Thursday in their 23-16 loss to the Bears. Quarterback Matthew Stafford said that was a product of what they saw on film from Chicago, and not because they were shorthanded on offense.
The Lions were without veteran wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. (knee) and running back Kerryon Johnson (knee) due to injuries. They've been without wide receiver Golden Tate since the trade deadline.
Thursday's game plan called for running the football with LeGarrette Blount – which they did with pretty good success – and getting the ball out of Stafford's hands quickly.
"They played a lot of two high safeties, some off corner," Stafford said after the game. "You know, these guys are good, good defense. To get guys down the field you got to hold the ball and holding the ball against these guys is not a good recipe for success. So we tried to get the ball out as quickly as we could."
Stafford finished completing 28-of-38 passes for 238 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions late in the fourth quarter that helped Chicago seal their eighth victory of the season and continue to lead the NFC North.
Stafford's lone completion on a pass that traveled beyond 15 yards down the field was a nice 43-yard completion to Kenny Golladay in the second half after Golladay got matched up on a linebacker.
The other time Stafford threw the ball beyond 15 yards it was picked off in the Bears end zone by Kyle Fuller to thwart Detroit's attempt to tie the game with just over a minutes left in the contest.
The logic of the game plan makes sense. The Bears did sack Stafford six times and hit him eight times total in the first meeting between these clubs earlier this month, also a Bears win (34-22). Stafford said after the game Detroit's cautious approach wasn't influenced by that game.
"I think it's just influenced by what you see on tape when you see them play," he said. "Teams that hold the ball against those guys don't get the ball off quite a bit. So just tried to make sure we mixed it up and for the most part, I don't have those two turnovers, I don't make those poor plays, right where we want to be."
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 12 game against the Chicago Bears.
But against a defense as good as Chicago's, offenses have to take an occasional shot down the field to keep them honest. If they don't, it's only a matter of time before someone like Eddie Jackson decides to cheat and jump a route, and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter on his game-winning 41-yard pick-six.
"I don't know if it was conservative or we're just trying to go down and give ourselves a chance to win, which we had multiple situations there where we could've put ourselves in a situation to win," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said after the game.
"We're doing the best we can with all of it – short week, game-plan, really good team, good pass rushers, good cover guys, different personnel for us. But I wouldn't say (we were conservative), I just think we were trying to grind the game out. It's a 60-minute game and that's what we were trying to play."