You cannot imagine how much pleasure it gives me to write this article. A month ago the Lions beat the Bears pretty soundly even though the score was relatively close (24-13). At that point, the Bears were 2-3 and looking up at undefeated Green Bay and Detroit, both 5-0, atop the NFC North division. I despaired as a Bears’ fan because I didn’t see a way the Bears could make enough changes in scheme to be better than an 8-8 team. However, I was proven wrong as the Bears did make significant changes both offensively and defensively and now they have have pulled even with the Lions at 6-3 after winning four in a row and the Lions dropping three of their last four games.
What also gives me great pleasure in writing this is the manner in which the Bears beat the Lions. One may look at total net yards and conclude the Lions were able to move the ball offensively while the Bears could not (393-216), yet that would be a mistake. The reason for the discrepancy in total net yards is easily explained by the fact that the Bears generated six takeaways — two fumble recoveries and four interceptions (two of which were returned for TD’s). Add to that the fact that Devin Hester returned a punt 82 yards for a TD, and that adds up to defensive dominance. If you add all the return yards on punt returns and interception returns to the Bears’ offensive numbers, the situation better reflects reality (191 return yards + 216 offensive yards = 407 total yards). Three TD’s on returns means less time the offense was on the field, and that is reflected in the number of offensive plays run (84 for Detroit and only 57 for Chicago).
Detroit was completely shut down. All-pro WR Calvin Johnson was held to only 7 catches for 81 yards and no scores. The Bears’ CB’s were much more physical with Johnson and it showed. Johnson was knocked around all game and eventually left the game after a hard hit in the end zone late in the game. Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford was off his game too. He completed 33 passes, but it took him 63 attempts to do so. He was sacked twice, hit an additional four times and was intercepted four times.
For Chicago, the defense definitely came to play yesterday. After looking old and tired a month ago, the defense made its presence felt right away. Detroit’s first two possessions ended in fumbles by their WR’s; the first by Calvin Johnson and the second by Nate Burrleson. Those two turnovers were converted into 10 points — a Matt Forte 6 yard TD run off the first turnover and a Robbie Gould 43 yard FG off the second turnover. After forcing a Detroit punt (that Hester returned for 29 yards to the Bears’ 48 yard line, the Bears scored again on a Gould 35 yard FG attempt to open the 2nd quarter. After a Detroit three-and-out, they punted again to Devin Hester — obviously not learning their lesson the last time — which he returned 82 yards for his 2nd PR for TD of the season and his 12th of his career (an NFL record). That put the score at 20-0 with just over 14 minutes to go in the half. Another three-and-out led to another punt that was almost returned for another TD. Hester made it 35 yards before being pushed out of bounds at mid-field. It wouldn’t have mattered as there was a penalty that nullified the return. The Lions finally woke up and decided to start playing the game when they recovered a Jay Cutler fumble at the Bears’ 19 yard line on a botched hand off, but the Bears’ D held Detroit to a FG to make the score 20-3. The Lions mounted a solid drive near the end of the half marching all the way up to the Bears’ 6 yard line before a Julius Peppers’ sack ended that drive. The ensuing FG made the score 20-6 at the half.
It looked like all the momentum the Bears had built up in the 1st quarter was gone by half time. Yes, they held a 20-6 lead, but the Bears’ offense wasn’t generating much offense and the defense was starting to allow the Lions to move the ball. However, that all ended when the Bears’ defense reasserted itself in the 2nd half. Just as Detroit’s first two possessions of the first half ended in fumbles that Chicago converted into 10 points, Detroit’s first two possessions of the 2nd half also ended in turnovers leading to 14 Chicago points — both pick 6’s by the Bears’ D. On Detroit’s 2nd play from scrimmage, Stafford threw an ill advised pass to TE Will Heller that Major Wright easily intercepted and ran back 24 yards uncontested for the TD. On the very next possession, Stafford was intercepted by Charles Tillman on a 3rd and 2 pass to Calvin Johnson that he returned 44 yards for the TD. The Bears were now up 34-6 and the game was effectively over three and half minutes into the 3rd quarter. Chicago added another Robbie Gould FG (50 yards) to cap their scoring. Detroit added a meaningless TD late in the 4th quarter to bring the score to 37-13. Stafford also threw two more picks, one of which led to a sideline clearing scrum at midfield. The fight started as DB D.J. Moore was blocking on a Tim Jennings interception. Moore was blocking Stafford, who then proceeded to grab Moore’s helmet and throw him to the ground. Moore took exception and retaliated. Moore was eventually ejected from the game. There was a lot of chippy play in the game — most of it instigated by the Lions, who grew more and more frustrated as the game went on.
The Bears now embark on a four game sweep through the AFC West division playing the Chargers and Chiefs at home and the Raiders and Broncos on the road. I think the Bears can come out of this 10-3. The teams in the AFC West aren’t all that strong. Anything less than 3-1 on this segment of the schedule would be a dissappointment.
Now on to the rewards…
THE GOOD: Jay Cutler and the Bears’ offense. While this wasn’t their most impressive performance (216 yards on 57 plays for a 3.8 avg.) they played relatively mistake free and converted on defensive turnovers when the opportunity presented itself. They didn’t win time of possession, but then they didn’t need to when the defense is returning interceptions for TD’s.
THE BETTER: Devin Hester and the Bears’ special teams. Robbie Gould made three of his four FG attempts including a 50-yarder; not bad considering the wind conditions yesterday. But the hero of the game was KR/PR Devin Hester. He returned 3 punts for 122 yards including the 82 yard TD. After giving up three long returns, the Lions finally wised up and began punting out of bounds.
THE BEST: The Bears’ defense. This was their most dominating performance of the season by far. Sure they allowed Detroit to gain 393 total offensive yards, but considering they ran 84 plays (4.7 avg), that’s not bad at all. They held Calvin Johnson scoreless and made him a non-factor in the game. They intercepted Matthew Stafford four time returning two of them for TD’s. They forced two fumbles leading to 10 points. They also sacked Stafford twice. I’m sure the Lions were glad to leave Chicago!
Next up: The San Diego Chargers here at Soldier Field.