Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears: Secondary Improvement Key to a Bears Victory
Prior to the season, like a lot of Bears watchers, I was concerned about the offensive line, and whether it could give QB Jay Cutler enough time to complete passes to his new weapon, Brandon Marshall.
The other main concern I had was with the secondary.
But so far, while the jury is still out on the offensive line, I have been pleasantly surprised by the play of the corners and safeties, in what has been a surprisingly productive Bears defense.
I have to admit that I bought into the aging defense argument, and that a Bears defense, whose core players—Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, in no particular order—were on the wrong side of 30, would spell trouble.
However, nothing could be further from the truth, at least thus far.
This is a defense that seemingly has found the fountain of youth. In particular, the play of the secondary has been worth celebrating.
A lot of the secondary's solid play is the result of effective pressure from the front four. But credit must be given to the guys who man the corner and safety positions.
In the preseason, Tillman looked every bit his age. His hips seemed rigid, and he was having difficulty in man-coverage.
But after two interception returns for touchdowns, I can't argue with success. Tillman has continued his Pro Bowl play from 2011; heck, he has surpassed it.
Likewise, Tim Jennings has played about as well as any cornerback in the NFL this season.
His four interceptions are tied for the league lead, and while he looked human in the first half of last week's win over Jacksonville, he has added ball hawking to his already impressive skill set.
In fact, Jennings' previous lack of interceptions was likely one of the reasons he had gotten into Lovie Smith's doghouse briefly last season. Jennings has always been a hard hitter and finisher, but we all know how much Smith values takeaways in his defense.
But it's not just the corners who are playing well, as Major Wright is finally showing the talent the Bears thought he had when they took him with their first selection in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Perhaps this is a sign that Wright is finally healthy.
But whatever the reason, there is no question he has improved his routes to the ball and is playing at a high level.
Chris Conte, too, has been effective in limiting the big play. And D.J. Moore in the nickle and pressure packages has also been impressive.
The Lions miss Jahvid Best, who still hasn't returned from his last concussion. Mikel Leshoure has started the last three games at running back, and they will rely on both him and Joique Bell in the backfield versus Chicago.
Leshoure was good against the Eagles, averaging 4.7 yards per rushing attempt, as him and Bell combined for 108 yards on 22 attempts.
But prior to their bye week, the Lions averaged just a combined 2.8 yards per rush versus the Vikings. and for the season, they rank just 19th in the league in rushing yardage.
Stafford attempted 45 passes against Philly, and threw the ball 51 times vs. Minnesota. So it will be on the shoulders of the Bears' secondary to shine once again in Motown on Monday night if they are going to improve their overall record to 5-1 on the season.
They have shown thus far that they are up to the task.
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