How the Bears and Lions match up
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter November 9, 2013 1:44AM
RICK MORRISSEY: Lions, 31-27
RICK TELANDER: Lions, 27-23
DAN McGRATH: Lions, 31-27
HUB ARKUSH: Lions, 34-29
ADAM L. JAHNS: Bears, 34-28
MARK POTASH: Bears, 31-27
PATRICK FINLEY: Bears, 24-23
Updated: November 9, 2013 4:45PM
LIONS AT BEARS
Time: Noon Sunday at Soldier Field.
Line: Pick ’em. • Total: 52 1⁄2.
TV: Fox-32 (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa).
Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM.
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL
ON THE GROUND
A key battle looms between a Bears rushing offense that gained 171 yards last week against the Packers and a Lions rushing defense that has allowed 58 ypg and 3.1 ypc to running back in the last three games. Led by Matt Forte (24 carries 125 yards, one TD), the Bears not only gashed the Packers’ fourth-ranked run defense, but they ran when they wanted to most (85 yards on 14 carries in the fourth quarter to all but clinch the game). Forte gained 95 yards on 14 carries against the Lions in Week 4, including a 53-yard TD run. Since then, the Lions haven’t allowed a run longer than 13 yards.
IN THE AIR
One facet in the return of Jay Cutler that can’t be ignored is that Cutler had his worst game of the season against the Lions in Week 4 (three INTs and a 65.6 rating, including two INTs and a 35.0 rating in the first half. The Lions, though, have allowed 357 and 480 passing yards to the Bengals (Andy Dalton) and Cowboys (Tony Romo) in their last two games, with only one sack during that span. That bodes well for a Bears offense that is picking up steam and gained 442 yards against the Packers. Before Week 4, Cutler was at his best against the Lions, with 12 TDs and only one INT.
WHEN THE LIONS HAVE THE BALL
ON THE GROUND
The Bears beat the Packers despite allowing 199 rushing yards, only the third time since 1970 they’ve allowed that many rushing yards in regulation and won. They’ll have to do a better job of containing Reggie Bush, who rushed for 139 yards on 18 carries in Week 4 and broke the game open with a 37-yard TD. ‘‘It was a combination of run fits and tackling,’’ defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. ‘‘We’ve got to get more guys to the ball. He’s very elusive. We have to play with great leverage, great toughness and a swarming mentality. If you do those things, then you have a chance to contain him.”
IN THE AIR
The Bears’ pass rush against Matthew Stafford is one of several X-factors. The Bears’ defensive line had five sacks against the Packers, more than it had in the previous seven games (four). Stafford has been sacked 10 times all season, with five of them coming against the Packers. In his last game, Stafford was sacked once and threw for 488 yards against the short-handed Cowboys, with 329 of them to Calvin Johnson. Reggie Bush (31 catches, 335 yards, two TDs) is the Lions’ second-leading receiver. He had four catches for 34 yards against the Bears in Week 4.
Once a key part of the Bears’ success, their special teams continue to lag behind their offense and defense. Joe DeCamillis knows he has work to do after the Bears had a punt blocked and were fooled by an onside kick against the Packers. ‘‘We had 11 out there, but 10 guys played a lot of plays,’’ DeCamillis said. ‘‘We’ve got to get all 11 going at the same time.’’ Micheal Spurlock had a key 57-yard punt return against the Bears in Week 4. He has had seven returns for 23 yards since then. Ace long snapper Pat Mannelly is out with a calf injury. Veteran Jeremy Cain will replace him.
If the doctors say Jay Cutler is ready to play 18 days after suffering a torn groin muscle, you have to take their word for it. But while Cutler can simulate most of the moves he’ll have to make in a game, it remains to be seen how much rust he’ll have after only two practices in the last three weeks. Cutler has a history of slow starts after long layoffs. And don’t forget that he wasn’t very good against the Redskins before he was injured (3-for-8, 28 yards, one INT, 8.3 rating). Most of all, not even the doctors know how he will react to getting hit. And you know the Lions and nasty Ndamukong Suh will be gunning for him.