Lions’ Den: Detroit travels to the Windy City

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The Detroit Lions are going to be way out of their comfort zone as they head down to The Windy City to take on the Chicago Bears. Exiting the comfortable cage that is Ford Field and onto the semi-frozen tundra of Soldier Field, Detroit will be at a disadvantage.

Game-time temperature? A balmy 36 degrees.

While the Bears have struggled this season, sitting at 3-6, they aren’t a team to take lightly–but they are very beatable. They’ve shown all season they are a one-dimensional offense that doesn’t allow their rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky to air it out.

Photo: Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports

Playing in five games this season, Trubisky has thrown the pigskin 59 times. In one of his two wins, he threw the ball seven times. Seven. That being said, the more games he plays, the more comfortable he will be and the more likely Chicago will allow him to throw.

Even if he does throw, who’s he throwing to? Dontrelle Inman? Kendall Wright? Josh Bellamy?

“Who are they?” Exactly.

Chicago acquired Inman from the Los Angeles Chargers a couple weeks ago, and he saw his first action last week against the Packers. He seemed to have decent chemistry with Trubisky, but he’s a No. 3 receiver at best. Same goes for Wright. Darius Slay, Detroit’s No. 1 cornerback, shouldn’t break a sweat in this matchup.

Stopping the Bears offense is as simple as loading the box. Not just eight or nine guys either; Chicago’s seen its fair share of 10-man boxes.

The flow of the game greatly depends on second-year running back Jordan Howard, who hasn’t shied away from the limelight. His 716 rushing yards puts him fifth in the league. Howard is a determined runner who always falls forward and fights for that extra yard. He isn’t a speedster, but can still break away.

The only receiving threat out of the backfield is rookie Tarik Cohen, who had a very hot start, but as cooled off mightily. Standing at 5-foot-6, Cohen is a nightmare to get to in space and has seen some success in the slot.

Defensively, the Bears are no joke. The pass rush coming off the right side is tough to defend. If Detroit guard T.J. Lang is unable to suit up on Sunday, it will be a long day for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Photo: Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports

Second-year outside linebacker Leonard Floyd has had a solid year getting after the quarterback with 4.5 sacks. Though his sack numbers aren’t outrageous, he is continually getting pressure.

Defensive end Akiem Hicks is much of the same. Coming from the interior, it’s been incredible what he’s been able to do. He not only makes a difference in the passing game, with seven sacks, but in the run game as well.

Detroit has struggled running all season, and that won’t change against Chicago. Floyd and Hicks have locked down the middle and the right side, while outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is one of the best at setting the edge on the left. It’s going to be a long day for both Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.

KEYS TO THE GAME

  • Attack Kyle Fuller. The Bears’ former first-rounder and No. 2 corner has been the target of many opposing quarterbacks, and while he’s had a few good games, he’s also had some horrendous ones. Figure out who he’s covering, either Marvin Jones Jr. or Golden Tate, and utilize them.
  • Stack the box. Go all in on stopping the run, make the rookie beat you. Trubisky is good for one or two deep passes a game, but hasn’t proved he can be leaned on. If Detroit can stop the run on first and second down–and the Bears always run on first and second down–and put them in a third and long situation, they’ll be sitting pretty.
  • Get to Trubisky. Even if the Lions can’t bring him down for the sack, they need to pressure him. He’s a rookie and makes rookie mistakes. Whether that’s holding onto the ball too long or forcing passes, he’s bound to make mistakes.

Writer’s Picks

Downes: Detroit struggles in Chicago. I don’t know why, I have no explanation, but they do. Stafford is 3-5 at Soldier Field and I think he’s going to add another tally in the loss column this week. While the Bears offense isn’t spectacular, the defense is outstanding. Stafford is prone to turning the ball over and Chicago is good at taking advantage of that. Chicago will shock Detroit this week.

Bears 24, Lions 21

Dolan: The Bears seemed to be trending in the right direction after back-to-back wins against Baltimore and Carolina. But they have dropped their last two games, falling to 3-6. It’s never easy playing in Chicago for the Lions, and game-time temperatures of 30 degrees could halt the Lions’ pass game. If the Lions want to make the playoffs, they need to beat the teams they’re supposed to beat. Chalk up the Bears in that category.

Lions 21, Bears 17

Goad: Expect the Lions defense’ to create problems for rookie quarterback Trubisky, who leads the 28th scoring offense in the NFL.  As long as Stafford can connect with his receivers, the Lions should have little trouble topping the Bears.

Lions 28, Bears 14

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