In their Week 5 meeting, the Detroit Lions beat the Chicago Bears 24-13 on Monday Night Football. Jahvid Best racked up 163 yards rushing on just 12 carries, and the Lions defense gave up only three points in the second half. Big plays were key in Detroit's win.
Despite Chicago nearly doubling Detroit in time of possession (39:03 to 20:57), the Bears only made it into the red zone twice all game. The crowd played a huge factor, as the offensive line for Chicago was not in sync for the entire game.
Detroit must be on point to start this game if they expect to win. Chicago has three solid wins in their past three games since the Monday night game at Ford Field. Expect much of the same from Chicago: Matt Forte carrying the load and a defense and special teams primed to make big plays.
Here are the Five Keys to Victory for the Lions this Sunday:
94. That is how many yards the Detroit Lions gave the Chicago Bears from penalties in their last meeting. Sure, Detroit may want to embrace their "Bad Boy" or "Villain" reputation, but that reputation does not have to be created by penalties.
Ndamukong Suh leads a defense constructed to rush the quarterback and be aggressive. But when this aggression turns into 15-yard face mask or roughing the passer penalties, it starts to hurt your team. Chicago held the ball for almost 40 minutes in their last game in part because of penalties that extended drives.
This time, Detroit will be playing at Soldier Field in what looks to be a cold, rainy day in Chicago. If the Lions get down early (like they always seem to do), the defense must step up and decrease the time Chicago has with the ball.
Devin Hester is one of the best, if not the best, return specialists the game has ever seen. Which makes Ryan Donahue's job easy: don't kick it to him. You hear it all the time, but it's a Cardinal Rule when playing the Chicago Bears, and teams still get burnt.
Field position is always a major factor, and Detroit did a great job in Week 5 of containing Devin Hester. Despite five punts by Donahue, Hester only had one return for one yard.
On kickoffs, it was much of the same. Hester averaged 21.0 yards per kickoff, which should definitely be viewed as a win for the Detroit kickoff coverage.
If the Lions expect to win, they cannot afford Devin Hester giving the Bears good field position. His electric return skills must be contained to help keep the crowd out of the game and the Bears offense on their side of the field.
The Detroit defense has been great against the pass this year. Opposing offenses are held to a slim 193.6 yards per game through the air, fifth-best in the league. Detroit has 24 sacks on the year and 11 interceptions, both ranked in the top five in the NFL. But against the run, Detroit has looked awful, giving up 137.6 yards per game (29th in the NFL).
Matt Forte ran for 116 yards in their previous meeting, and the game plan for the Bears has not changed. Forte is an elite back that can make plays running and receiving, and it will be up to the Lions front seven to shut him down.
DeAndre Levy was all over the field in their first matchup, acquiring 13 tackles. Look for him to play a large part in shutting down Matt Forte.
In short, just give the ball to Megatron. Calvin Johnson is the most dynamic offensive weapon the Detroit Lions have had on offense since Barry Sanders. With Jahvid Best out, the Lions should be looking to Johnson that much more.
Unfortunately, Chicago knows how amazing Calvin Johnson is. He is not, however, the only playmaker that Detroit has. Nate Burleson and Titus Young have shown flashes and should be expected to contribute this Sunday.
Detroit's defense also needs to make plays. They failed to force a Chicago turnover in their last meeting but did manage three sacks. Detroit has been successful in large part because of their NFL-leading plus-13 turnover difference.
Forcing turnovers and making plays on defense will be key for the Lions to win.
Matthew Stafford is capable of winning a Super Bowl. He has the skill and the receivers to make big plays, and given the chance, he does. He has the fourth-best passer-rating in the NFL, behind only Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
The Detroit Lions need to air the ball out. Chicago is ranked 26th in pass defense, opposed to 12th in run defense. Detroit is ranked 10th in passing offense and 27th in run offense. Detroit's strength is Chicago's weakness, and that must be exploited if Detroit expects to win.
Stafford has only thrown four interceptions all year, and with a respectable 61.2 percent completion rate, throwing the ball is Detroit's best way to get down the field and score.
If the season ended today, Detroit and Chicago would hold the two NFC wild-card playoff spots. With a win in Chicago, Detroit would hold the tiebreaker over their division rivals, which puts extreme importance on Sunday's game.