It’s one of those times where I can look at the Detroit Lions jerseys in my closet and actually smile. For years, it feels like my fandom has been weighed down by Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia. Whether it was poor team structure built by Quinn or Patricia being stubborn in his “my way or the highway” style of coaching, the results never changed. The losses continued to pile up and every Sunday got tougher. Truly, it was a suffocating feeling.
Now that Quinn and Patricia are gone, it feels like the Lions just got a haircut. They got rid of the five o’clock shadow and are clean cut. What happens within the next five games is a mystery but it’s so interesting.
Listening to player interviews this week, it felt like a brand new team. It felt like a weight was lifted off the shoulders of so many in the locker room. This includes the coaching staff. So much so, that interim head coach, Darrell Bevell mentioned the word “fun” about one hundred times already. If it’s any indication, the Lions weren’t having fun before but now they might start having some. This Sunday, it all starts with the Chicago Bears.
Much like the Lions, the Bears have got problems of their own. They’re struggling and they enter Sunday with five straight losses. Fortunately for them, they have Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. I know, I can’t believe I just typed that either. However, the numbers don’t lie. Trubisky has played well against the Lions. He’s 4-2 and has thrown for over 1,600 yards with 14 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Without question, he plays better against the Lions than any other team in the league.
That being said, the Lions have a fresh start to the season. If they win out, they’ve got a potential chance of making the playoffs at 9-7. Seems more like a fantasy than a reality but maybe a win against the Bears could ignite a spark for a team that desperately needs it. Let’s jump into some film and see what the Lions should expect from the Bears this weekend!
Bears defense on third down
Believe it or not, the Bears have one of the best defenses on 3rd down this season. They’ve only allowed opposing offenses to convert on third down, 34.8% of the time. What makes it even more interesting is that they have one of the least pressure rates in the NFL with only 79 pressures (18.9%).
When playing the Green Bay Packers last week, I noticed that on third down, the Bears struggled to generate pressure. Using the play above, this is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The Packers offense is 2×2 and it looks to be a “shakes” concept. This concept is essentially to beat Cover 2 and it’s where you have two corner routes being ran and one receiver run in the middle of the field. This also leads to the running back spilling to the flats.
On the play above, the Bears drop eight into coverage and only rush three players. That’s a dead giveaway that it’s not Cover 2 and is clearly some type of prevent defense. Unfortunately, this gives Aaron Rodgers all the time in the world and that’s something you can’t do. This leads to Rodgers being able to scan the entire field before finding Davante Adams open in the end-zone. Keep an eye on Adams, as well, the Bears drop Robert Quinn (EDGE #94) into coverage and it’s clear that Quinn instantly regrets dropping into coverage as he tries to cover Adams.
Lastly, take a look at the pass rushers the Bears are sending at Rodgers. Khalil Mack (EDGE #52) is rushing from the left end position, Bilal Nichols (DT #98) is rushing as the nose tackle and Brent Urban (DT #92) rushes from the right end position. Sending Mack and Nichols makes sense. Combined, they have 63 pressures of the 79 pressures this season for the Bears (per Pro Football Focus). However, Urban only has five pressures this season and it doesn’t make much sense for him to be out there.
For the Bears, they could be without Akiem Hicks as he’s battling a hamstring injury and Mack is battling through a back injury. In fact, Mack has already missed consecutive days of practice this week. If he doesn’t play, the Bears might have no choice but to drop 8 players into coverage against the Lions. If they don’t start sending blitzes at Detroit this Sunday, Matthew Stafford could have one of his better games of the season.
Chip on the shoulder of Stafford?
Call me crazy but could Bevell unleash the playbook and have some fun with Stafford this week? Michigan fans know all too well about a head coaching having complete control. There was a point under Jim Harbaugh where he had the final decision on everything when it came to play calling. Would it be surprising if that didn’t happen under Patricia? It would certainly explain the questionable carries for Adrian Peterson on second and 10.
Maybe Bevell didn’t get complete control of his offense with Patricia but he certainly does now. Could this offense look different? I think it will and it won’t be due to the fact that Kenny Golladay is out again with a hip injury.
Lions having some fun on offense early. Stafford finds Hockenson for a huge gain. #OnePride pic.twitter.com/JOrvLAFsQx
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) November 26, 2020
We’ve been seeing some trick plays as of late. Last week against Houston, it led to a huge gain for T.J. Hockenson. Despite sprinkling some of this in, the Lions should look to become more consistent on offense. For that to happen, Stafford has to play with a chip on his shoulder. To be honest, he should be playing with one. He could easily be on his way out of town or he could show to everyone around the league that the problems within the franchise are gone and that he’s the guy. He’s the franchise. It’s hard to say what type of play we’ll get from Stafford but with the season hanging on by a thread, you’d have to think he plays some of his best football of the season.
Swift is back
Despite myself believing in Stafford playing well against Chicago, it won’t be all on him. For Bevell to prove himself different, the Lions have to start giving Swift full control of the backfield. He should have already had the keys to the car by now and before his concussion, he was flirting with the gas drivers seat. Despite battling an illness right now, Swift has cleared concussion protocol and should be on the field against Chicago.
Swift with the TD 👀👌#OnePride pic.twitter.com/SOTDC9Ey6i
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) November 15, 2020
Swift has only played 251 snaps this season with Peterson being right behind him with 229 snaps. Going back to week one, we can all remember that the rookie dropped the game winning touchdown against the Bears. He’ll look to get some redemption against Chicago and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get in the end zone against a Bears defense that is giving up 121.2 rushing yards per game.
Bears uninspiring offense
The Lions might have one of the worst defenses in the NFL but the Bears have one of the worst offenses in the NFL. They only average 305.5 total yards per game (second worst in the NFL) and they’ve only scored 216 points this season. Playing against the Lions could certainly provide the Bears a much needed spark but it’s tough to predict.
On paper, the Bears look like they could be one of the better offenses in the league. Allen Robinson has been a top-10 wide receiver despite poor play from Trubisky and Foles. He’s tied for 8th in the NFL with 71 receptions and is tied for 8th in the NFL with 42 first down receptions. Despite the Bears struggles on offense, he’s been their best player. Meanwhile, David Montgomery is 3rd in the NFL for running backs with 18 broken tackles. But the results of this offense are determined by how these Bears quarterbacks play. As I’ve mentioned, Trubisky has succeeded against the Lions for much of his career but he could see defensive concepts he hasn’t seen from the Lions before.
Everson Griffen and Jarrad Davis with the sack on Watson. Davis rushes off the edge and then there’s a stunt in the middle. pic.twitter.com/yTJSth0T3m
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) November 26, 2020
For the Lions, I just want to see more of a pass rush from this team. They spent big money for Trey Flowers and added Everson Griffen at the trade deadline. Meanwhile, they don’t have a linebacker on this team that can cover a soul so just do the opposite of the Bears. Rather than drop eight and include your linebackers into your mix, get creative with some blitz packages and put the pressure on Trubisky. This season, the Lions have only blitzed on 21.6% of quarterback drop backs they’ve faced (fourth lowest in the NFL). As the Lions try to end the season with a “new look”, it could all happen with a more aggressive defense.
It’s going to be an excited Sunday of football and I’m intrigued to see how the Detroit Lions respond to the recent changes made by the organization. It could be the turning of a new leaf or it could be the same old Lions.
To discuss this matchup further, find me on Twitter and listen to me on WJR Radio with Michael Stets for his podcast, Inside the Lions!
🔊 New episode of Inside the #Lions @Michael_Stets !!! 🏈
iTunes: https://t.co/KVnWpCwr37@RussNFLDraft joins Stets to talk current draft prospects, the changes we may see with Darrell Bevell as head coach, and preview #DETvsCHI https://t.co/j7qq5WLe58
— WJR 760am (@wjrradio) December 4, 2020
Feature image: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports