Lions vs. Bears preview: Detroit out to keep hope alive
James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday’s Lions-Bears game at Ford Field (4:30 p.m., NFL Network, Channel 4/760).
BEARS TO WATCH
Jordan Howard, RB: The second-year pro is one of five backs who already has topped 1,000 yards with three regular-season games to go and is tied for fourth with seven rushing scores. Howard gashed the Lions in their Week 11 meeting with 125 yards rushing and a season-high 8.3 yards per carry. Another healthy dose of Howard is likely on tap.
Akiem Hicks, DE: The veteran has been a menacing force and a major catalyst for Chicago’s defensive resurgence. Hicks leads Chicago and has tied a career high with seven sacks but has failed to register one the last five games. He’s also tied for league lead in run stops with 31, according to Pro Football Focus.
Adam Shaheen, TE: With Zach Miller out for the season, Shaheen has stepped in and become a reliable target for rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. He has caught four passes for 40 yards and a score in two of the past four games. The Lions have given up five touchdowns to opposing tight ends the past four games.
■ Bear down: For the Lions to force Mitchell Trubisky into making a bad decision or two, it starts by neutralizing the ground game. In the first meeting, that didn’t happen as the Bears ran for 222 yards and 7.4 yards per carry. The result? Trubisky had a mistake-free day throwing the ball.
■ Keep Stafford clean: Last week, Matthew Stafford showed no ill effects of his bruised throwing hand and his ability to shred the opposing secondary when he’s given time. However, with Detroit’s banged-up offensive line and league-worst rushing attack, Chicago could very well release the hounds and dial up plenty of blitzes to rattle Stafford.
■ Stay disciplined: Detroit’s defense has been bitten time and again by play action and misdirection, particularly in the red zone. It’s led to four touchdowns the last two games and is an area the Bears will likely try to exploit again. When the teams last played, Trubisky took advantage of several read options to rush for 53 yards and threw his lone touchdown pass off a run fake at the 1-yard line.
■ Still kicking: Detroit’s faint playoff hopes live on for another week. The Lions are part of a three-team logjam and are one game behind No. 7 seed Seattle on the edge of the postseason picture. However, the stakes haven’t changed and another loss would spell certain doom for Detroit’s wild-card aspirations.
FACTS AND FIGURES
■ Darius Slay has recorded the second-most takeaways (five interceptions, one fumble) in the NFL this season. He’s the first Lions cornerback with at least six takeaways since Alphonso Smith in 2010.
■ Matthew Stafford is the first player in NFL history to complete at least 80 percent of his passes with at least 29 attempts in back-to-back road games.
■ Marvin Jones is the sixth Lions receiver since 1991 to record at least 12 catches of 25-plus yards in a single season.
■ Detroit is 6-1 against Chicago under coach Jim Caldwell.
■ Eric Ebron is the third tight end in team history to record at least 10 receptions in a single game, joining Hall of Famer Charlie Sanders and Brandon Pettigrew.
■ Chicago is 3-1 in games where it has rushed for over 200 yards, with its lone loss coming to Detroit.
■ The Lions are 2-4 at Ford Field this season, with both of their wins coming by double digits and all of their losses coming by seven points or less.
■ The Lions are the only team in the NFL that has yet to reach 1,000 yards rushing.
■ Detroit has won eight of the past nine meetings between the teams, including the last four at Ford Field.