As the Detroit Lions (9-3) gear up for their rematch against the Chicago Bears (4-8) this Sunday at Soldier Field, the stakes are high and the air is charged with anticipation. Their previous encounter in Week 10 witnessed a thrilling Lions comeback, culminating in a 31-26 victory at Ford Field.
The Bears, though at the bottom of the NFC North, are far from a team without purpose. Despite the long odds, their playoff hopes are (technically) still alive. More notably, they possess the Carolina Panthers’ first-round draft pick, potentially the top overall. This drives them to build a winning culture ahead of the 2024 season. Moreover, many of their players, including quarterback Justin Fields, have a golden chance to put out quality game film and showcase their talent for future opportunities around the league.
The Lions, on the other hand, are battling defensive woes but remain proud of their 9-3 record. Their offense, after a roaring start against the Saints in Week 13, needs to maintain momentum throughout the game against the Bears. Consistency will be key in controlling the game’s tempo and energy. With Mother Nature expected to play a role in Chicago, the game dynamics could shift significantly. For this very type of game, the Lions sniped running back David Montgomery from the Bears in free agency.
Lions Offense vs. Bears Defense
The Bears’ defense, known for its man-to-man coverage and strong run defense, poses a challenge to a play-action-oriented offense dealing with missing their starting center. Montez Sweat’s addition has elevated the Bears’ run defense to the league’s top spot, although their passing defense lags at 25th. The Bears’ inconsistency has been a setback, but their potential for momentum-altering plays cannot be overlooked.
Lions Offensive Coordinator Ben Johnson praised the Bears’ defensive capabilities, noting their sound scheme and discipline. “They are relentless, they pursue, they are very disciplined,” Johnson stated, emphasizing the challenge they present, especially with Sweat’s addition bolstering their front.
To counter, the Lions’ right tackle Penei Sewell and left tackle Taylor Decker must neutralize Sweat. The Lions’ offensive line faces a significant challenge, particularly in the absence of star center Frank Ragnow. Veteran Graham Glasgow will pivot to center, with rookie Colby Sorsdal and veterans Dan Skipper and Kayode Awosika stepping in to fill the gaps. This reshuffled line must contend with the Bears’ revitalized front, which aims to pressure Lions QB Jared Goff relentlessly.
On the receiving front, the Lions’ Amon-Ra St. Brown will be under the spotlight.
His matchup against Bears DB Kyler Gordon, one of the league’s rising stars in slot defense, will be pivotal. In their previous matchup, Gordon limited St. Brown to just two catches for 22 yards. The Lions, however, are adept at adapting; the versatility of their offensive weapons, including rookie TE Sam LaPorta and WRs Jameson Williams, Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds, gives them an edge. They will also lean on their running backs, David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, to diversify their offensive play-calling. This game provides an opportunity for Jared Goff to use the duo as a security blanket through passes to the flats that also keep the Bears front seven honest.
The Lions’ rushing attack has been a season highlight. The run game, which in terms of combined scrimmage yards ranks second in the league, has become the identity of this offense. The Lions’ offensive line, despite missing star center Frank Ragnow, must create lanes and protect Goff against the Bears’ relentless pressure. This will be pivotal in establishing a balanced attack, keeping the Bears’ defense guessing, and mitigating their aggressive front.
Lions Defense vs. Bears Offense
The Lions are bracing for unpredictability from the Bears after their bye week, especially with Justin Fields at the helm. The Lions will rely heavily on linebacker Jack Campbell, whose instinctual play has been honed throughout the season for moments like these. Additionally, the return of Alex Anzalone, the league’s top cover linebacker, adds a strategic advantage. His coverage skills have been exceptional, and he will play a crucial role in containing TE Cole Kmet, a persistent threat to the Lions.
The Lions are also acutely aware of WR DJ Moore’s impact. Head Coach Dan Campbell acknowledges the threat posed by Moore: “He’s a hell of a player… he’s somebody that, obviously, we’ve got to play a lot of attention to.” The Lions’ defensive strategy involves a delicate balance – emphasizing Moore without undermining their ability to contain Fields and the Bears’ other offensive weapons. DBs Jerry Jacobs and Cam Sutton will have their hands full with Moore, necessitating a disciplined and collective effort.
The Detroit Lions defensive line faces the challenge of generating pressure on Fields. With Alim McNeill’s absence, other players will need to step up. The absence of McNeill on the line is a setback, but players like Josh Paschal, John Cominsky, Julian and Romeo Okwara need to fill his void. The effectiveness of edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson in breaking through the Bears’ offensive line, particularly against young tackles Darnell Wright and Braxton Jones, will be critical in disrupting the Bears’ offensive rhythm. This unit’s ability to contain the Bears’ running game, featuring Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, and Roshchon Johnson, will also be pivotal in dictating the flow of the game.
The best has yet to come…
The narrative around the Detroit Lions often revolves around their struggle to deliver a complete game, but this also suggests that their best performance is yet to come. This anticipation provides a strong reason for optimism among Lions fans. Despite their impressive record, the team is aware of the need for improvement. With December’s arrival, it’s the ideal time for the Lions to address any lingering weaknesses, ensure their players are in optimal health, and ramp up their game as they head into what hopes to be a long playoff run.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
Tweet: @WoodwoodSports or comment on your favorite social media platform!
Original Photo Credit: © Orlando Ramirez – USA TODAY Sports