Bears are down, but Lions expect tough, cold game

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Lions are 10-4 for the first time since 1991. And with a victory over the Vikings last weekend, they finished 7-1 at home for the first time since 1995.

In coach Jim Caldwell's first year, the Lions have overcome plenty of history, but in order to secure a playoff berth, they'll have to rewrite even more of the franchise's beleaguered past.

And they'll have to do it against their two most hated rivals — the Bears and Packers.

Of course, if Philadelphia loses Saturday in Washington, Detroit will clinch a playoff spot.

Regardless of that outcome, Detroit will try to win in Chicago for the second straight year, something it hasn't accomplished since 1973, the final of six straight wins in Chicago — three at Wrigley Field, three at Soldier Field.

A stretch of five straight wins over the Bears from 1971-73, home and road, also was the last time the Lions won four or more games in a row against Chicago. They've won the last three over the Bears.

"We don't talk about that kind of stuff," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "We're a week-to-week basis team. Going at Chicago is always tough. They're talented, they still have good players and they're capable of playing extremely well."

Stafford is 4-5 in starts against the Bears, so it makes sense he wouldn't read too much into the recent struggles in Chicago.

Then, after Chicago, Detroit travels to Green Bay, where the Lions haven't won since 1991.

"There's been historical hurdles here from the jump," Lions receiver Calvin Johnson said. "I don't know how many we've passed since I've been here, but it seems each year there's another one. I think that's just a testament to the hard work that guys are putting in, the focus like we were just talking about, coaching. All that goes hand in hand."

The Lions started 7-2 this season, the first time they've done that since 1993. And, Caldwell will finish with a winning record in his first season, the first time a new coach has done that since Bobby Ross in 1997.

But in addition to the history against the Bears and Packers, the Lions likely will have to overcome the weather in their final two games. They've lost 16 straight outdoor games when the starting temperature was 40 degrees or colder.

"I wasn't here, so I don't look at the past and make a determination on what's going to happen in the future," Caldwell said. "I believe in the guys that we have. We know it's going to be tough, but I think it's our job to find a way."

The forecast for Chicago is a high of 39, and it surely will be colder in Green Bay in Week 17.

The Lions practiced outside Wednesday to help them prepare for the cold, and players have preached Caldwell's message that they have an indoor team with an outdoor mentality.

"It's December," Lions strong safety James Ihedigbo said. "It's been cold for a while in Detroit. Regardless of if we've played a game in it, it's cold weather."

Lions at Bears

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Soldier Field, Chicago

TV/radio: Fox/97.1

Records: Lions 10-4, Bears 5-9

Line: Lions by 7

Series: Chicago leads 96-68-5 (Detroit 34-17, Nov. 27, 2014)

Outlook: Lions can clinch a playoff spot with a victory, and can clinch the division title with a victory and a Packers loss. ... Bears are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.