Lions vs Bears: Chicago's Stifling Defense, Sharp Offense Should Shut Down Lions

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Lions vs Bears: Chicago's Stifling Defense, Sharp Offense Should Shut Down Lions
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Bears will be facing a just about desperate Lions team this coming Monday night, as Detroit has struggled to find its feet to start the season.

Of course, the Bears know what that's like though Detroit can expect no sympathy from them this week.

The key to this game for the Bears will be hammering at the Lions offense while also getting their offense going early.

How might they do that? Let's take a look.

 

When the Bears are on Offense

Former NFL strong safety and current Chicago Tribune and National Football Post writer Matt Bowen had an excellent article today about how the Bears can overcome the Lions' blitz

On the play he broke down—a long completion from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson along the sideline for 30 yards in the third quarter—the Eagles had the Lions beat several ways.

Not only, as Bowen illustrates, was Jackson (green) open long (although as the article points out, that was in part due to poor work on cornerback Chris Houston's part), but the Eagles also had a receiver coming across the middle (yellow) who had perfect position on the defender.

It's the middle route that will most often kill the Lions and the Bears will use it all day against them, mostly having Brandon Marshall crossing, but also using tight end Kellen Davis and probably Earl Bennett as well. 

While that happens, expect them to give Devin Hester the long slot we have Jackson in here because Hester's speed and double move could make a guy like Houston bite and create the opening Hester has used to score the last few games.

Another key part of this play is the blitz pickup itself, as the Eagles adjusted to account for (in this case) Louis Delmas. The Eagles had Bryce Brown (a running back in for a banged-up LeSean McCoy) come in and knock Delmas out of the play.

It's similar to the tight end and fullback rubs that San Francisco used effectively back in Week 2 and is very effective because it uses the natural aggressive tendencies of the defensive front and turns it against them.

The Bears' offensive line has been playing better but still can be inconsistent. The Lions will come hard at Jay Cutler because they will feel they can force him to make mistakes the more they pressure him.

So by keeping someone back—it could be tight end/full back Kyle Adams or (if healthy) Evan Rodriguez—they could keep Kellen Davis or Matt Spaeth in, or simply have Michael Bush and Matt Forte blocking.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Bears will also run the ball quite a bit, and Forte and Bush should have a lot of success against this defense.

Yes, the Lions have a highly-rated run defense, but that's a misleading stat. The Lions run defense isn't so good as the pass defense is mediocre. Sure they held LeSean McCoy and Mike Vick to under 100 yards combined, but McCoy got hurt, and the Lions allowed Vick to throw for over 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson lit them up two weeks prior for 100 yards. 

It's not nearly the tough matchup it appears to be on paper, especially for guys like Bush and Forte.

One thing the Lions do well is keep running backs out of the end zone, though again, when you can score on special teams, with the pass and defense, running touchdowns aren't that vital.

The biggest challenge for the Bears is making adjustments quickly. If offensive coordinator Mike Tice sees a pattern on the blitz, he needs to react quickly.

If Cutler is standing, this offense is capable of picking the Lions secondary apart.

 

When the Bears are on Defense

Defensively it's as simple as 'keep doing what you're doing.'

The Bears have been pressuring quarterbacks into mistakes the last three or four games and the Lions' offensive line has been very inconsistent.

Very effective whether blitzing or just rushing four, the Bears front seven is just too much to block for anything more than an elite-level line, which Detroit does not have—and even then you have issues.

I expect the Bears to replicate the way they played against against Tony Romo and Dallas on Monday Night Football a few weeks back.

Of course, you remember Lance Briggs' pick-six? That play was all about pressure.

Left to right in the accompanying screen cap, we have Israel Idonije (No. 71) at left defensive end, Henry Melton (No. 69) and Amobi Okoye (No. 91) at defensive tackle spots and Julius Peppers (90) at right defensive end. Brian Urlacher (No. 54) and  Lance Briggs (No. 55) are towards the middle and Major Wright (No. 21) is the safety standing near the bottom of the shot.

As illustrated by the arrows, Idonije and Melton will be powering in on the left, trying to force their way to Tony Romo, while Okoye tries to slip inside the guard. Peppers will take a wider route to Romo on the right side.

Briggs and Urlacher will drop back. 

The right side of the Cowboys' offensive line collapses, and both Idonije and Melton are able to bull their way past the guard and tackle respectively.

Romo steps up into the pocket and Briggs, seeing him, drops out of coverage and steps up to fill the gap and contain the quarterback.

Instead, Melton gets his hands on Romo quicker than the Cowboy quarterback anticipated and either knocks the ball loose or hits Romo as he is trying to shovel pass it to tight end Jason Witten.

Instead, the ball flies to Briggs who runs it to the end zone for the first of two pick-sixes over two games.

It's the pressure which gets Romo to make the mistake.

Aaron Nagler and I debated this in the preview video of this game, but I still contend that as good as the players in the secondary are playing, their turnovers come largely because of the pressure up front.

As I say in the video, they're good—but the front seven make them look great.

The Lions' offensive line will be vulnerable in the same way the Cowboys' was. There is simply too much to keep track of and they don't have enough great players to stop a four man rush of Idonije, Melton, Okoye and Peppers, much less an all out blitz that would include Briggs or Urlacher or even a safety.

Constant pressure will also help contain Calvin Johnson and stymie Mikel Leshoure and the ground game.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Johnson is still going to be a beast to cover—I recommend hitting him early in the route and having a safety come over to double him—but if Matthew Stafford has no time to throw it, you can mitigate the damage Johnson causes.

Minnesota and San Francisco were both able to keep him under 100 yards while Philadelphia and St. Louis were able to keep him out of the end zone.

The Vikings and 49ers were especially physical with Johnson and that threw his rhythm with Stafford off.

Further, Stafford loves to throw to Johnson and while it's not to the detriment of the offense, he can fixate on the elite wide receiver.

It's hard—though not impossible—to completely shut Megatron down. 

However by attacking Stafford and making him rush, you can limit the damage a receiver like Johnson can do.

 

Conclusion

You know the Lions will come to play and put up a tough game. They have to as it's already basically a must-win game within the division.

However the Bears have an outstanding defense and it will be very tough to move the ball on it. If the offense starts out strong, and the Lions start slow as they often do, then the Bears should be able to get out to a nice lead and allow the defense to smother one of the teams standing between Chicago and a division title.

Check out the B/R NFC North Facebook page—like us and keep up with everything NFC North on Bleacher Report.

Follow me on Twitter at @andrew_garda.

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