Lions-Bears: Too Many Questions

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Lions-Bears: Too Many Questions
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The questions keep coming.  After a devastating loss against the Chicago Bears, I start wondering if these Lions are improved, or are they the "Same Old Lions."

Last week, I was drinking the Kool-Aid.  The Lions were coming off their first victory in two years, and the Bears were struggling against a dilapidated Seahawks team.

The Bears game was a confounding game for Lions fans.  We saw what seemed like a mirror image of the Minnesota Vikings game, where the Lions seemed to play two different games, one in each half.  We saw the Chicago offense start in Lions territory repeatedly, as if it were an NCAA overtime. 

We saw the Lions' special teams forget to tackle. We also saw Stafford have a career day.

Questions, questions.  Too many questions.

How bad was the Special Teams?

Punt returning for Chicago ended at a 17.4 average, kickoff return averaged 47.5 yards.  Comparatively, Detroit didn't return one punt and 18.7 yards per kickoff return.  Chicago's average starting position was the Detroit 47 yard line, Detroit's was the 18 yard line (none past the 30).

Is the Bears' Special Teams blocking that good or are the Lions that bad at tackling?

Both.  The Chicago Bears have seemed to get it right when it comes to kickoff and punt returns.  Hester in '07 looked like Mel Gray.  I would have to look back at the play yesterday, but I remember Knox not being touched and running through a hole that Refrigerator Perry could have rumbled through untouched.

How much of a difference was the scoring for the Bears when they started in Lions Territory?

Enormous.  Of the six drives that started in Lions territory, all six resulted in scores: four touchdowns, two field goals, 34 points.  Of the six drives started in Bears territory, only one resulted in a score: the first drive, where Forte broke a 61-yard run to give the Bears a short field.

Has Stafford finally shut up the Culpepper supporters?

I certainly hope so.  Stafford ended the day just short of 300 yards, threw one touchdown and had two bad plays.  His rating for the game was 89.6, which isn't bad.  He finally endured the hits he was expected to received in his first few games, and while he was shaken up, he'll be back next week.

This game, and the two next games will be Stafford's ultimate test.  Chicago sacked him five times, the same number of sacks Stafford succumbed to in the first three games combined.

Pittsburgh will be no less forgiving next week.  The road to Green Bay will feel much the same as this Chicago game.  If Stafford can survive these games with the confidence he's built, the Lions will be fine.

Was Stafford the right pick over Sanchez?

The jury's still out.  Against the Saints this week, Sanchez posted a 27.0 Quarterback Rating.  Stafford's rating against the Saints was 27.4.  I think the critics can shut up now about Sanchez being that much better than Stafford.

Is it time to panic/give up on the season?

Not really.  Before the season started, I felt the Lions would go into the bye week 2-4.  The wins were coming at home against the Vikings and Redskins.  I didn't feel the Lions would beat the Saints, Bears, Steelers, or the Packers.  Of course, this was before Favre.  The Vikings roared in Ford Field to win that game, but we held AP and the offense, we just made too many mistakes.

Following the break, we have many winnable games.  St. Louis and Cleveland are both winless, and could still be winless when we host them.  Cincinnati's a bit bi-polar.  They come from behind to beat Pittsburgh, then they barely scrape a win against Cleveland. 

Seattle's hurting bad.  Baltimore will probably trounce us, but we still have three more division games, two at home.

Did the Lions take a step back, or are they still improving?

I'm leaning toward the "still improving."  Stafford led his offense to 24 offensive points, most by a team against the Bears defense.  The offense put up nearly 400 yards, also the most by the Bears defense. 

On the drives where the Bears started in their own territory, the Lions forced three three-and-outs and held the Bears twice more without a score.  They nearly held the Bears to a field goal after starting on the Lions' eight yard line, but a special teams blunder prompted the Bears to go for it at the one yard line, scoring their third touchdown.

Lions Offensive grade?  B-.  They played well in the first half with three touchdowns out of six drives.  They stalled in the second half, with one field goal out of seven drives.

Lions Defensive grade? C.  They didn't have much to work with, but they were more impressive than the score indicated.  The stand after the interception was impressive, but died when they had to retake the field. 

They played badly with their backs behind the wall, but had a few sparks.  Hard not to give up highlights when the midfield logo is in front of you all the time.

Lions Special Teams?  F.  No two ways around it, the Special Teams stunk up Soldier Field.  An offsides penalty allows the Bears to go for a TD instead of a field goal, the second half kickoff return goes for a 102 yard touchdown with the runner barely (if at all) touched, and the next kickoff following a Hanson field goal is returned to the Detroit 47, resulting in a Chicago touchdown drive. 

Listen to the announcer talk about the Kickoff Out of Bounds penalty at the end of the first half and how Schwartz should choke Hanson for that one. 

Funny thing was, Detroit's two ensuing kickoffs resulted in a kickoff-return touchdown and Chicago starting on Detroit's 47.  If he kicked out of bounds, Chicago would have started at their own 40.  Would we have seen a different game?

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