Lions defense will try to stop Bears backs in their tracks
Allen Park — The last time the Lions and Bears met at Solider Field in mid-November, the Lions needed late-game heroics from Matt Prater and a missed field goal from then-Chicago kicker Connor Barth to escape with a 27-24 win.
There’s a simple reason the last-place Bears were able to make the Lions sweat it out: They rushed for 222 yards.
At 4-9, the Bears lead the league with four games of 200-plus yards on the ground. Carolina is the only other team in the NFL with three such games.
The Bears are 3-1 in those games, and they’re coming off a 232-yard performance on the ground in last week’s 33-7 blowout win in Cincinnati.
“They’re hitting their stride,” Jim Caldwell said. “They’re a tough team and running the ball extremely well. (Their) record means nothing.”
The Lions defense continued to struggle stopping the run last week when it gave up 133 yards on the ground the Bucs. It’s a trend over the last five weeks they would like to remedy, as they’ve given up 158.6 yards per game on the ground in that span. In contrast, the Lions surrendered just 74.6 rushing yards per contest over the first five weeks of the season, which buoys their position as the league’s 20th-ranked rush defense.
With their playoff hopes hanging in the balance and a team coming into Ford Field that excels at doing exactly what the Lions struggle at containing, it’s a safe bet the Lions are in for another dogfight with their division rival.
“We weren’t good enough,” Glover Quin said of the first matchup with the Bears. “We were fortunate to come out of that game with a win. We definitely can’t allow that to happen again.”
The Bears were creative in the way they ran the ball in the teams’ first meeting. While Jordan Howard was piling up 125 yards on the ground, rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky had some success keeping the ball on the read option, going for 53 yards on six rush attempts.
“I thought he was dangerous before we played him last time,” Caldwell said of Trubisky. “He can run, he can throw, he’s smart, he’s tough and I still feel the same way about him. Now he’s got more snaps under his belt, so he’s even more dangerous.”
Trubisky hasn’t run much since the last time he saw the Lions, notching just 36 yards on 10 attempts. But given how much attention 1,000-yard rusher Howard will draw, and the success the Bears had against the Lions the last time out, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Chicago running the read-option early and often on Saturday afternoon to test the Lions’ discipline.
While the Bears were shredding the Lions on the ground, Trubisky put together a solid, mistake-free game through the air going 18-for-30 for 179 yards and a touchdown.
Quin says that’s a product of the run game.
“When you can run the ball like that, there’s guys running wide open across the field,” he said. “Those linebackers start creeping up, the secondary starts creeping up. Everybody’s watching the running back, and he’s an NFL quarterback, he can hit (open) targets.”
Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.