Lions vs. Bears: How Matt Stafford Should Attack Chicago's Defense
The Detroit Lions signal-caller undeniably has the talent, and with Calvin Johnson out wide, he has the receiving target to do major damage every week. However, after a 41-touchdown, 5,038-yard 2011 masterpiece, the Georgia product has struggled with consistency to begin the 2012 season, and his team has underwhelmed.
Against a vaunted Chicago Bears defense that's allowed a paltry 60 QB rating to opposing signal-callers this season, Stafford must be on the top of his game to lead his team to victory.
I know, you know, Jim Schwartz knows and Stafford knows what base defense the Bears will be in for the majority of the evening: their trademark Cover 2.
When middle linebacker Brian Urlacher recognizes a pass, he'll fly down the seam to cover the deep middle of the field while the two safeties look to pinch the deep sidelines and the corners playing zone underneath.
Seems like a simple concept to exploit, right?
With the talent on Chicago's defense, it's not.
Stafford cannot make the big mistake early, and he has to be as patient as possible.
What that means is though chucking a jump ball downfield to Megatron always seems like a good idea, it's not necessarily a great idea against a team that's extremely familiar with Detroit's big-play ability. The Bears defense is specifically tailored to stop the long completion.
Instead, Johnson can be utilized on intermediate routes and drags across Chicago's zone defense. Remember, he's quite the yards-after-catch receiver too.
Although Urlacher is as experienced as any in coverage down the middle of the field, Pettigrew, who's a huge target, should be able to win more often than not in an area of the field that can be vulnerable for the Bears.
Now, clearly, Urlacher isn't in a retreating backpedal on every down, but the Lions should attack the middle of the Bears defense as much as possible.
Also—and this isn't necessarily in Stafford's hands—establishing the running game is an absolute must. It won't be easy against the league's stingiest run defense, but Mikel Leshoure needs to get his carries.
After Detroit shows at least a semblance of a dedication to the run and moves the football with an assortment of short to intermediate connections, Stafford can utilize the play-action game and look for Calvin Johnson down the field.
But, as is typically the case against the Chicago Bears' super disciplined and rather talented defense, patience is key.
If Stafford takes what Lance Briggs and Co. give to him to begin the contest and then takes calculated shots Megatron's way, Detroit could sneak out of the Windy City with a huge divisional win on the NFL's grandest stage.
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