clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

How Bears, Lions match up

WEEK 16

LIONS AT BEARS

Time: Noon Sunday

Line: Lions by 812 • Total: 4412

TV: Fox-32 (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman) • Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM

WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL

KEY PLAYERS

Jimmy Clausen will be making his first start since Jan. 2, 2011, with the Panthers — a 31-10 loss to the Falcons. Thinking on his feet against a fierce pass rush and avoiding turnovers will be a challenge. Only 2 of 14 QBs have not thrown an INT vs. the Lions (Rodgers, Newton). DT Ndamukong Suh has to be licking his chops in anticipation of facing Clausen.

ON THE GROUND

The Lions’ defense has set a staggering pace against the run in 14 games thus far, yielding 63.8 yards per game — easily No. 1 in the NFL this season and sixth all-time in NFL history. The Bears contributed to that impressive statistic by rushing only eight times (only 7 times by running backs) for 13 yards in a 34-17 loss at Ford Field in Week 13. Matt Forte gained six yards on five carries in that game. With Clausen making his first start in four years, the Bears figure to run the ball more this time. ‘‘You have to be able to run every game,’’ OC Aaron Kromer said. ‘‘So we have to do what we can do.’’

IN THE AIR

Clausen seems to have the right idea against the No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL (No. 1 in points allowed, No. 3 in sack yardage) with a ferocious pass rush led by the indomitable Ndamukong Suh. ‘‘You definitely don’t want to hold the ball against these guys,’’ Clausen said. ‘‘Their front four — they get to the quarterback the best in the league. The biggest thing for us is taking care of the football, getting the ball out, staying on rhythm and moving the chains.’’ Though Suh is a force, the Bears match up well with Kyle Long, who helped hold Suh to zero tackles, zero sacks and 1 QB hurry in the game at Ford Field.

WHEN THE LIONS HAVE THE BALL

KEY PLAYERS

Lions QB Matthew Stafford (3,797 yards, 19 TDs, 10 INTs, 87.5 rating) has been good when the Lions have needed him to be. He torched the Bears for 390 yards, 2 TDs and zero INTs at Ford Field. Bears rookie CB Kyle Fuller learned some tough lessons in that game and will be on the spot to prove he’s making progress after he leveled off after an impressive start.

ON THE GROUND

The Lions are ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing yards and yards per attempt, but Joique Bell (197-726, 3.7, 6 TDs) is just effective enough to make it work. Bell rushed for a season-high 91 yards on 23 carries vs the Bears on Thanksgiving Day and is averaging 4.2 ypc during the Lions’ three-game winning streak (56-236, 1 TD). The Bears did not have DT Jeremiah Ratliff in the previous encounter, and Ratliff is expected to play this time, which should make a difference. The Bears are 15th in the NFL against the run, 20th in ypc. This is a challenge their young linebacker corps should be able to handle.

IN THE AIR

It’ll be interesting to see if the Bears have a better answer for Calvin Johnson, who was unstoppable against them on Thanksgiving (11-146, 2 TDs). ‘‘We have to play tighter coverage, be more disruptive on the routes, and we have to hit the quarterback more,’’ Bears DC Mel Tucker said. ‘‘Be more disruptive on the routes’’ is the operative phrase Bears fans will be looking for. It’ll be a test for the Bears’ secondary, particular Fuller and rookie safety Brock Vereen. Stafford has plenty of other weapons, including WR Golden Tate and RBs Reggie Bush and Bell.

SPECIAL TEAMS

You don’t know what you’re going to get from the Bears’ special teams this season. ST coordinator Joe DeCamillis was at a loss to explain last Monday’s aborted 10-man fake punt that typified the nightmare on special teams this year. ‘‘We didn’t execute it,’’ DeCamillis said. ‘‘It’s a shame because it was definitely there and it would have been a boost for our team.’’ Robbie Gould (quadriceps) is out, so Jay Feely will handle PK chores. Lions haven’t been great shakes in the return game this season. Marc Mariani has been a bright spot on kick returns — he had a 40-yard KO return vs. the Saints last week and is averaging 24.9 ypr.

X-FACTOR

Bears coach Marc Trestman is hoping to light a fire under his struggling offense by benching Jay Cutler and starting Clausen. It remains to be seen how the rest of the team will respond. ‘‘I think we need a lift at quarterback — I think we need a spark,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘The weight of the world should not be on Jimmy Clausen. He’s going to get an opportunity to play, and I’m hoping that our team — against a very, very good defense, we all know that — there’ll be some response from our football team.’’ The Bears, though, have been beaten down mentally throughout the second half of the season. No telling how much they have left.