In looking forward to this week's game in Chicago, it's a good time to look back to what helped the Lions win the first meeting. Here are a couple of plays which were key to Detroit's strong performance.
One of the biggest keys to that game was the dominant pressure from the Lions' defensive front. Ndamukong Suh overwhelmed rookie right guard Kyle Long. That dominance by Suh was never more apparent than on this play.
The Lions line up in their standard Wide 9 alignment. The goal here is to isolate Suh and get him in a solo matchup against Long. To help foster that, linebacker Stephen Tulloch (No. 55) lines up close to the line to force the line to react to him.
Right off the snap, it's obvious the Lions' ploy worked. Even though Tulloch drops, center Roberto Garza is fixated upon him when he should be helping Long. The tackle is occupied with end Israel Idonije (No. 77).
The rookie guard doesn't get much help from his quarterback on this play. Jay Cutler has a clean lane to hit a receiver flaring outside, but he holds on to the ball. Meanwhile, Long is holding on to Suh for dear life. One hand is on Suh's back while the other is pulling the jersey off his inside shoulder.
Suh twists to the outside and separates from Long, who lost leverage control even though he was holding. The guard actually helps Suh get the sack by yanking him toward Cutler.
The Lions created opportunities like this for Suh against Long, and he capitalized. The little nuances, like creeping Tulloch up close and having the end pull the tackle wide, are things the Lions did very well in the first meeting.
Detroit has lost some of those subtleties and attention to detail. You can bet Long and the Bears are chomping at the bit for a shot at redemption. Suh obviously has the talent to beat double-teams, but the Lions need to get back to helping him get isolation looks like this.
Another play the Lions ran successfully in the first meeting was using short passes to Joique Bell as de facto runs.
Three times, the Lions ran almost exactly the same play. It's an option pass for quarterback Matthew Stafford, designed to force one linebacker in coverage to choose between Bell underneath or the tight end crossing behind him in the other direction.
The Bears opted, as expected, to cover the deeper route. This left Bell with room to pick up a handful of yards to either keep the chains moving or pick up an easy first down.
This play is the second time Detroit ran it. It comes from late in the second quarter as the Lions are driving for a score just before halftime in a two-minute offense.
What makes this eye-catching in terms of its success is that they ran the exact same play in the prior snap. The Lions got seven quick yards on that play, setting up a 2nd-and-3 just across midfield.
Detroit has three wideouts, one tight end and Bell in the backfield, i.e. its base offensive set. The Bears are in nickel coverage with two linebackers and three corners.
The Detroit receivers all run vertical routes, which forces the Chicago safeties to get deep. Pettigrew is running a sort of square-in route across the middle, while Bell flares across the short middle heading in the opposite direction.
Stafford gets to read the linebackers now. He could thread the ball over Lance Briggs (No. 55) to Pettigrew on the first option, or he can hit Bell in the shallows with room to run before Briggs can close on him.
The Lions quarterback chooses the safer option and hits Bell. Note that Stafford is holding the coverage a bit by clearly looking at Pettigrew on the deeper route.
Bell makes the catch and picks up eight yards before two Bears converge and bring him down. The play took just six seconds, a reliable and quick moving of the chains.
Briggs is now out for the Bears, replaced by rookie Jon Bostic. The venerable veteran defensed this play pretty well, recognizing the Bell route before Stafford even begins the throw and closing quickly to prevent the extended handoff from gaining even more yards.
This play is a staple for Detroit in an uptempo situation. With two rookie linebackers filling holes for the Bears, expect to see it multiple times this Sunday.
If the Bears sniff this tendency out on film, and their coaching staff is one of the smartest in the business, Stafford can hit Pettigrew on the deeper route. He also has quite a bit of running room for himself should he choose to slide forward and break for the sideline against Bell's flow.