Bears vs Lions : The first of two meetings in 11 days between the Lions and Bears will be played at Soldier Field Sunday, followed by a Thanksgiving Day rematch.
The Lions have been a model of inconsistency all year, defeating the Patriots but losing to the Jets and 49ers. They’ve outscored their first eight opponents 52-20 in the first quarter but been outscored 190-128 in the final three quarters, including 80-26 in the third quarter.
The Bears have won back-to-back games, but they were against the Jets and Bills, who are a combined 5-13. The defense has capitalized on the inferior opponents, allowing just 19 points and 471 yards combined. The 41-9 victory in Week Nine was misleading, as the offense had just 190 total yards but benefited from short fields and two defensive touchdowns. But they lead the NFC North at 5-3.
The Lions have won nine of the last 10 meetings, though six of the last eight Detroit victories have been by six points or less.
The Bears are No. 7 in rushing yards, but that statistic gives a false impression of their ground game. QB Mitch Trubisky averages 8.0 yards per carry, and his 302 rushing yards are second among NFL quarterbacks to only Cam Newton. Jordan Howard rushed for two touchdowns last week but averaged just 3.4 yards on 14 carries and is at 3.5 for the season. Tarik Cohen provides a more dynamic complement, but he had his least productive game of the season vs. the Bills, gaining 5 yards on six carries.
The Lions are 30th in rushing yards allowed and 31st in average gain allowed per running play (5.14 yards) and have been gashed on runs of longer than 50 yards in four different games. They’ve permitted at least 128 rushing yards in each of their five losses. They added massive NT Damon “Snacks” Harrison shortly before the trade deadline, which should help shore up the middle vs. the run.
QB Mitch Trubisky had a stretch of three plus 100.0 passer ratings in four games before scuffling against the Bills with a 76.0 outing that was artificially inflated by a 2-yard, garbage-time TD pass to TE Trey Burton. The TD was Burton’s team-best fifth and equaled his career mark he set last year in Philly. WR Allen Robinson (groin) has missed the last two games but could return this week. In his absence, rookie Anthony Miller has stepped up with eight catches for 96 yards the past two weeks. WR Taylor Gabriel leads the Bears with 37 catches and 426 yards.
Lions DE Ziggy Ansah returned after a six-game hiatus following a shoulder injury and had one sack last week but played just a dozen snaps. Even without his pass-rush presence, the Lions are No. 1 in the NFL in sack percentage and No. 4 in passing yards allowed but only 26th in average gain allowed per pass. Without Ansah, OLB Devon Kennard and Romeo Okwara, Ansah’s replacement, have picked up the sack slack with five apiece. CB Darius “Big Play” Slay, who has two interceptions, will miss his first game of the season with a knee injury.
After several years as the NFL’s worst running team, the Lions have gotten a big boost from second-round rookie Kerryon Johnson, who has gotten off to a strong start. He’s averaging 5.7 yards per carry despite being held to just 3.1 per try last week. LeGarrette Blount handles the short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Last week Bills QB Nathan Peterman scored the first rushing TD against the Bears in 2018. Aside from a hiccup in the Week 6 loss to the Dolphins, the Bears have mostly shut down the run game, allowing less than 75 yards five times and 4.0 yards per rush or less seven times. DE Akiem Hicks and NT Eddie Goldman are winning at the line of scrimmage, and ILBs Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan (25 combined tackles last week) are cleaning up.
Prior to getting dropped 10 times last week, QB Matthew Stafford had been sacked just 13 times in the first seven games. He dropped back 51 times last week but got off just 36 passes, running for his life five times when he wasn’t sacked. Stafford was hit 17 times in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings, but prior to that had been among the least pressured QBs in the league, and he still has a 96.5 passer rating. In a puzzling move, they traded away leading receiver Golden Tate (44-517-3) to the Eagles. But the cupboard is hardly bare, with Marvin Jones (32-453-5) and big, deep threat Kenny Golladay (33-523-15.3-3). TJ Jones could step into the void created by Tate’s departure.
The Bears dominated Jets rookie Sam Darnold and the Bills’ Nathan Peterman the past two weeks, but they were victimized the two previous weeks by the Dolphins’ Brock Osweiler and New England’s Tom Brady. The Bears are No. 2 in the league in interception percentage, CB Kyle Fuller is tied for the NFL lead with four picks and 10 different players have at least one interception. The pass rush has fallen off since OLB Khalil Mack (ankle) was injured early in Week Six, but they’re still eighth in sack percentage, and Mack could be back this week.
The Lions fired ST coordinator Joe Marciano Monday after repeated struggles in kick coverage, especially punts, where they have allowed an average of 20.6 yards, nearly eight yards more than the next-worst team. Their special teams also drew three penalties on Sunday, giving them 14 for the season. Jamal Agnew, who led the league in punt-return average last year and took two to the house, is likely to miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury he suffered a month ago.
Cohen is fifth in the NFL with a 12.4-yard punt-return average, and he had a 36-yarder last week.
Lions coach Matt Patricia is no slouch — or at least he doesn’t care for the slouching of others, as he pointed out last week during a news conference. But the Lions’ enormous discrepancy in third-quarter scoring is an indication that his halftime adjustments aren’t working.
Matt Nagy’s offense might have taken a step back last week, but his team still won by 32 points and is on pace for its first playoff berth since 2010.
The Bears’ only loss in four home games is to the Patriots. The Lions have lost three of four on the road. If the Bears get Mack and Robinson back, it would give each side of the ball a big boost. Letting Tate go caught his former teammates by surprise and seemed to indicate the Lions may not be all-in this year, an odd move, since they were only a game out of first place in the NFC North.