Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions: Week 14 keys to the game

Will the Chicago Bears be able to sweep the Detroit Lions this season? The Lions are currently favored by a touchdown, but if the Bears follow these keys, they will earn the upset.

The Chicago Bears earned their first victory since Halloween last Sunday. Unfortunately, the Bears don’t have the privilege of playing the 49ers every week. Chicago won their first matchup against Detroit, but this is a different team than the one they faced in week 4.

The Lions are currently on a 4 game win streak and quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing the best football of his career. If the Bears want to play spoiler, they will have to follow these keys and then some.

Before we look to this week, let’s see how the Bears did with last week’s keys:

1) Feed Howard 20 carries: Howard received 32 carries, gained 117 yards, and barreled in for 3 touchdowns. Last Sunday was the third game that Howard received over 20 carries, it was also the third Bears victory of the season. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!

2) Bring the sack back to Chicago: The front 7 of the Bears had been quiet for the last couple weeks, but they came out roaring against the 49ers. I said that the Bears needed to record two sacks and limit Kaepernick to 30 yards rushing or less. The Bears tallied 6 sacks and limited Kaepernick to 20 yards on 6 carries. Needless to say, the Bears earned this key.

3) Cameron Meredith’s return as a viable weapon: The Bears must be thrilled that Meredith got rolling again last Sunday. While I said that he needed 75 yards and a score, his 67 yards on 3 receptions were enough for me to give the Bears this key.

Week 13 keys: 3/3

Dec 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) rushes for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

1. Continue to feed the Beast

It was in last week’s keys and you will probably see it for the rest of the year, give Jordan Howard the football! Ironically, Howard’s first game with over 20 carries was week 4 against the Detroit Lions. You know what else happened on week 4? The Bears achieved victory for the first time in 2016.

Jordan Howard averages a monstrous 4.9 yards per carry average, a number that ranks him 5th in the NFL. Yards per carry can be a deceiving statistic at times, but it truly defines Howard’s running style. He keeps the offense on schedule with consistent runs of 3-6 yards. The Lions will be the most formidable defense that Matt Barkley has seen, so keeping a manageable down and distance is a must.

Another significant bonus that feeding Howard is the potential for a home run carry. Howard currently has 6 runs of over 20 yards, and dozens more that went for over 10 yards. Feeding Howard not only keeps the offense on schedule, but it also wears the defense down. After being beaten up by Howard for 40 minutes, defenders are more likely to miss tackles. However, the Bears have rarely experienced this advantage. Despite having one of the best rushers in the NFL, the Bears rank 20th in rushing attempts. If the Bears want to play spoiler, they need to feed Howard at least 20 times.

Dec 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (94) forces a safety on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert (2) during the fourth quarter of the game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

2) Bring the heat to Matthew Stafford

The new and improved Lions offense revolves around quick delivery for the purpose of avoiding pass rush. However, we witnessed exactly what happens to the Lions when the defense can force Stafford to move around in the pocket. Chicago’s week 4 tilt against the Lions happened to be one of the few occasions where Matt Stafford got flustered. He threw two interceptions and was called for an illegal forward pass off a scramble play.

To earn this key, the Bears don’t need to put up crazy sack numbers like they did against San Fransisco. Chicago simply needs to pressure Stafford early and often. The Bears only recorded two sacks against Stafford, but he was continually flushed out of the pocket. Stafford isn’t the slowest quarterback in the NFL, but flushing him from the pocket would be a significant advantage for Chicago.

For the Bears to earn this key, they must record two sacks and apply continuous pressure. They also must create a turnover. Whether that takeaway is due to a rushed throw or a strip sack, the Bears need a takeaway from their front 7. Speaking of turnovers…

Dec 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) knocks the ball away from San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

3) Dominate the turnover battle

The Bears have a paltry 8 takeaways this season. While the defense is beginning to forge an identity through its front 7 and pass rush, the takeaways need to start coming. The Bears received a quarter of their takeaways in their last matchup against Detroit. One came on a miscommunication between Stafford and Tate which lead to a Jacoby Glenn interception before half. and the other was a great break by Deiondre Hall. Both takeaways halted scoring drives by the Lions and snatched momentum back for the Bears.

In all likelihood, Detroit will be able to move the ball against Chicago. While suppressing a quarterback to 5 yards passing was incredible, it just doesn’t happen often, especially against good teams. The Bears have featured a bend-but-don’t-break defense all year; a defense that’s predicated on making big plays at critical moments. Against teams like the Titans and 49ers, making stops on third down was enough. However, the Lions have a much more potent offense, and forcing turnovers will likely be the only way to keep them off the scoreboard.

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If Chicago wants to force the upset, they will have to finish +2 in the turnover battle. While this key is predicated on the defense forcing turnovers, the offense still needs to take care of the ball.

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