Head coach Dan Campbell referred to this week as a recalibration week for the Detroit Lions.
After playing consistently good football for a two-month stretch leading into last week's game in Carolina, Detroit was thoroughly dominated by the Panthers, especially on defense to the tune of 570 total yards with 320 of those coming on the ground.
Campbell said he expects his team to bounce back in a big way this week. They'll need to facing Bears quarterback Justin Fields and the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL Sunday at Ford Field.
The last time the Lions faced the Bears was Week 10 in Chicago, and Fields rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns and threw for a couple scores. The Lions won 31-30 thanks to a missed extra point by the Bears.
Campbell said Wednesday one of the fun parts of the job is plowing through countless hours of film in preparation for the week's opponent - Trying to find an edge or that one nugget that could set up a huge play that can be the difference in the game.
It's the second time playing Chicago and the first film Campbell said he put on was that first game Week 10, but make no mistake, Campbell and his defensive coaches took a long look at Chicago's game against Buffalo last week. The Bills held Chicago to 80 rushing yards – nearly 100 yards off their season average of 179.7 – and held Fields to a season-low 11 rushing yards.
"Yeah, I mean there's certainly some things that you'll take, any of these teams that have had success against them," Campbell said Wednesday. "You're always going to look at that and see what you can do."
The Bills did a nice job mesh charging inside with their defensive ends and looping their linebackers over the top. They also dedicated a spy from all three levels at times to contain Fields, Chicago head coach Matt Eberflus told Chicago reporters this week.
Buffalo's defense is second in the NFL in points allowed and eighth in total defense, but can the Lions take anything from that Buffalo tape they can apply to Sunday?
"They have different personnel than we do, and so you take some of the good. You also take things you believe that you can do," Campbell said. "There's some things we did well the first time we played them. So, I think it's all encompassing. But we'll have a good plan in place and we'll be ready to go."
CEPHUS TO IR
The Lions were hoping third-year wide receiver Quintez Cephus would be able to return to action for them at the end of the season after spending a good portion of the year on injured reserve, but with Cephus' 21-day practice window set to expire the team is electing not to activate him and instead place him on season-ending IR.
Cephus suffered a lower-body injury in training camp after getting tangled up with cornerback Jeff Okudah and missed some time. He was back in time for the start of the regular season, but injured his foot in Week 4 and was placed on IR. The team started his 21-day practice window to potentially return from IR on Dec. 7. Cephus was a fifth-round pick by the team in 2020 and is under contract for one more season.
TIGHT END PRODUCTION
The Lions' record for touchdowns by the tight end position in a single season is 11. Detroit's tight end group currently stands at 10 with two games remaining, which a lot of people probably wouldn't have thought possible when the team traded T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings at the trade deadline.
"I'm very proud of the way the guys are playing," tight ends coach Tanner Engstand said Wednesday. "Who knows, maybe we'll have to dial something else up in the red zone the next couple weeks and see if we can't get to 12 or something like that."
Hockenson had three touchdowns before he was traded to the Vikings. Shane Zylstra has four on the year after catching three in the loss to Carolina last week. Brock Wright has two and rookie James Mitchell has one.
While the passing production has been good from that group, Engstrand said he'd like to see his tight ends be more consistent moving forward in the run game.
"I think there's been some inconsistencies for sure in the tight end room," he said. "Whether we're missing a drive block on the front side of the zone or missing a backside cutoff on the backside of a wide zone play. We just have to kind of do our part, really. Focus on the technique and the fundamentals of what we're trying to do and see the big picture."
The Lions will have to be particularly good about ball security this week. One thing Chicago has been really good at all year is forcing turnovers. Despite their 3-12 record, the Bears are even in turnover differential, which ranks in the top half of the NFL. They have 21 takeaways on the year and six in their last two contests.