Chicago Bears Week 10: 7 Keys to Victory for the Bears over the Detroit Lions
Since that game, the Bears have been on a little bit of a roll, winning three straight, while the surprising Lions have come back down to earth a bit in losing two out of their last three games.
This is a pivotal game for the Bears, who need a win to tie the Lions for second place in the NFC North in order to jockey for a playoff spot.
If Bears head coach Lovie Smith encourages the Monsters of the Midway to focus on these seven keys to success, victory is certain.
7) Contain Tight End Brandon Pettigrew
Tight end Brandon Pettigrew caught a couple of key drive-extending third down catches in that brutal Monday night game; he caught a total of four passes, including a 18-yard touchdown.
Though not overly productive, it was enough to expose Chicago's poor defensive play and soft spots in its defense that night.
To help solidify a victory Sunday afternoon, the Bears need to make Pettigrew a non-factor on third downs.
6) Don't Let Chris Harris Get Revenge
There is nobody more pumped for this game more than Lions safety Chris Harris.
Harris was released by the Bears two weeks after the loss to the Lions and found a new home in Detroit. He would love nothing better than to stick it his former team.
Harris will probably try and make his mark in his homecoming early, so it would be in the Bears' best interest to play away from him and get him out of the flow early.
If he is able to make a hard hit or a big play early, it could work as an energizer for the entire Detroit defense. Trust me, we don't want those boys riled up.
5) Get to Matthew Stafford
Stafford has been a full participant in the Lions' practices this week, but he has lingering finger and ankle problems. A few good takedowns by Bears defensive ends Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije should ensure Shaun Hill some playing time on Sunday.
If the Bears don't get their hands on Stafford, they need to at least apply constant pressure on him and keep him on the run.
If he's avoiding defenders, he's less likely not to find "Megatron," a.k.a. Calvin Johnson.
4) Utilize Devin Hester and the Tight Ends in the Middle of the Field
Now that deep threat Earl Bennett has returned, Devin Hester doesn't have to be relied upon so much on the offensive side.
In the Bears' Monday night victory, Bennett immediately reclaimed his spot as Jay Cutler's favorite target, leaving Hester with only one catch for 12 yards. With the Lions linebacking corps still a work in progress, and them being blitz crazy as well, the middle of the field should be open for most of the game.
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz should implement more plays that call for Hester to be in motion and in the slot. Hester definitely has the explosiveness to get some major YAC on short slant plays over the middle of the field.
The tight ends are not used often in Martz's offense, but they have shined when they called upon this season.
Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis should be utilized in more double tight end formations with plays drawn up for them in the middle of the field. This would also cause the Detroit defense to lay off the blitz and alleviate some of the pressure on Jay Cutler and Bears offensive line.
3) Play Penalty-Free Football
The Bears clearly lost focus early and often in their last meeting with Detroit. As a team, the Bears had 14 penalties for 104 yards...atrocious!
In the past three wins, the Bears have been more disciplined, averaging only six penalties per game.
Limiting their mistakes will prevent the Bears from not killing so many drives like in their Week 5 meeting.
2) Offensive Line Must Protect Jay Cutler
When the Bears were down in the dumps, the poor O-line play received most of the blame. Now that they are on a roll, the line needs to be praised.
During the Bears' current three-game win streak, Roberto Garza and the boys have only allowed three sacks in that span (one to the Vikings, two to the Bucs, and none to the Eagles); he was sacked that many times in the Week 5 loss to the Lions alone.
If they can keep Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril out of Jay Cutler's face, a four-game win streak should be in the books.
1) Stop the "Big Play"
Look past all the penalties and other mistakes from the Bears' previous loss to the Lions—those did not seal the Bears' fate in that game.
What killed them was giving up two big scoring plays. The Bears let Stafford connect with Johnson for a 73-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, then in the third quarter they let running back Jahvid Best do his best Barry Sanders impersonation and reel off an 88-yard touchdown run.
Two big plays for 14 points—no team in the league can dodge a loss giving up those kinds of highlight reel plays.
Lovie's philosophy on defense is "bend, don't break," and, well, the D not only broke, but shattered into pieces on those plays. They can't let that happen on Sunday.
Calvin Johnson might be the biggest playmaking wide receiver in the league, but if the Bears stop him from getting on SportsCenter's Top 10, then it should equal out to "W" No. 6 in 2011.
This, obviously, is all easier said than done. The Lions are one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season and have proven to be push-overs no more.
If the Bears plan on making it to the postseason, then this is a must-win game. With the Green Bay Packers looking like they aren't losing anytime soon, these two will more than likely be battling it out for a wild card spot.
With their win in Week 5, the Lions are in the driver's seat in a tie-breaker scenario with the Bears. What better way for the Bears to even the score than with a victory in their own backyard?
So "Bear Down," don't forget the seven keys, and go out there Sunday and get a win!
My prediction: Bears 27, Lions 17