4 Bears questions: Does coaching change mark the end of team’s slide vs Lions?
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Four questions as the Bears prepare to host the Lions on Sunday:
Does the slump end?
The Bears have beaten the Lions only once in their last 10 tries.
But things are different now — right? Both teams have a first-year coach for the first time since 1978. Still, familiarity will rule one side of the ball. Bears coach Matt Nagy, an offensive mind, retained coordinator Vic Fangio and all his defensive deputies this offseason. Lions coach Matt Patricia, the former Patriots defensive coordinator, kept offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, as well as running backs coach David Walker and receivers coach Robert Prince.
When the Lions have the ball, the schemes will look like they did in 2017, though the players will be different. The Lions traded receiver Golden Tate last month, and the Bears have outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
“I think when you have teams that know each other so well from a personnel standpoint, those games are always the most difficult,” Patricia said. “Obviously, the division is the hardest. But I do believe that every team is different every single year.”
Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks, who played for Patricia with the Patriots, called him a “mad genius.” He’s not sure what influence the coaching change will have on the divisional rivalry.
“It can be exactly what they showed us last year,” Hicks said. “Or they can flip the script entirely.”
So the Lions can run?
Lions rookie Kerryon Johnson is averaging 62.9 rushing yards per game, a full eight yards more than the Bears’ leading rusher, Jordan Howard.
The last time the Lions’ leading rusher finished a season with a better average than the Bears’ leading rusher was 2004, when Kevin Jones outgained Thomas Jones.
The Auburn alum’s 5.65 rushing yards per attempt are the most by any Lion since the great Barry Sanders retired in 1999. Still, Johnson has been inconsistent. Since gaining 158 yards on only 19 carries against the Dolphins, he has totaled 20 carries for 59 yards the last two games.
“He’s a running back with great vision,” inside linebacker Roquan Smith said. “Hits the hole when he sees it. Just makes the most of each and every play and loves to get the tough yards, as well.”
Halftime hot tip
The Bears, who are 6½-point favorites, have covered the spread in only five of their last 16 games against the Lions.
So was Ryan Pace right?
One of the Bears’ general manager’s most controversial moves of the offseason was deciding to offer receiver Cam Meredith an original-round tender worth $1.907 million and then let him walk without compensation when the Saints gave him $5.4 million over two years.
The Bears still were concerned about Meredith’s left knee after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and partially tore his medial collateral ligament. The Saints were comfortable with his medical reports.
Seven months later, Pace won his bet. Meredith was put on injured reserve Thursday after coach Sean Payton revealed he’d been dealing with swelling in the same knee after every game this season. Meredith will undergo arthroscopic surgery.
No one inside Halas Hall did any victory laps — Meredith remains well-liked — but give Pace credit for making a decision that seems wiser by the day.
Will we see Adam Shaheen on Sunday?
Probably not. The Bears tight end practiced for the third straight day Friday since the team opened his three-week window to come off injured reserve.
Nagy was coy when asked if Shaheen would be activated, but it sounded like a no.
“I think that for us right now, we’re just trying to get him to the point of feeling good going out there,” he said. “I mean, that was the first time he put pads on, on Wednesday, for a long time. He did well when he was out there.”