At 2-3 the Lions need a win over the Bears, who at 4-1 lead the NFC North. Matthew Stafford leads an offense that through five games has dominated in the fourth quarter, but struggled early. For the Lions to defeat the Bears, Stafford and Co. will have to be at their best for all four quarters.
The Bears have had one of the top defenses in the NFL for years, and this season is no exception. They are first in the NFL in points allowed per game with 14.2 and in rushing yards allowed with 65.8. With that said, the passing game will be the key for the Lions, as it often is.
Stafford’s mechanics have been criticized this season, and what better way to silence his critics than with a strong showing at Soldier Field in front of a national audience?
The 24-year-old QB has just four touchdown passes and has thrown five interceptions in 2012. While he’s still averaging nearly 300 passing yards per game, Stafford has a dismal passer rating of 79.2. These are not good numbers for a QB that had over 5,000 passing yards, 41 TD’s and a passer rating of 97.2 last season.
In four career starts against the Bears, Stafford is 1-3 and the Lions are 1-5 against the Bears in the last three seasons. Their only win came on Monday Night Football last year, but that game was played in Detroit in front of a wild crowd. Stafford threw for 219 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the Lions 24-13 win.
In their second game against the Bears last year, the Lions suffered an embarrassing 37-12 loss at Soldier Field. Stafford threw for 329 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
In his first two career starts at Soldier Field, Stafford didn’t fare any better. In 2009 he was sacked five times and suffered a knee injury on the last sack which knocked him out of the game. In the 2010 season opener, Stafford was out of the game at halftime with an injured right shoulder and he didn’t return to action until Week 8.
Chicago’s front seven consistently get to the quarterback, and the secondary has no trouble getting their hands on the football. The Bears are currently tied for fifth in the NFL with 18 sacks and each team ahead of them has played at least one more game. They rank first in the NFL with 13 interceptions, five of which have been returned for touchdowns.
Stafford is a solid quarterback with a strong arm and he has the benefit of playing with a few very talented players, like Calvin Johnson. While targeting Megatron is important, Stafford’s first priority needs to be limiting turnovers. He shouldn’t try to force anything on a defense that relishes the chance to pick off a pass and return it for six.
With the help of his offensive line, Stafford should be able to throw high-percentage passes from the pocket to wide receivers and quick dumps to running backs or tight ends. The Lions don’t need to look for a home-run play on every possession; they just need to move the chains and work to win the field-position battle.
This game could have a big impact on the Lions' playoff hopes, even though it's early in the season. With that said, we shouldn't expect Stafford to put up extraordinary numbers against the Bears, but we should expect him to put the Lions in position to win.