Lions-Bears Preview

The Chicago Bears haven’t lost since a Monday night last month

against the Detroit Lions. Improved play from the offensive line

has keyed the turnaround, and now that unit gets another big test

from the Lions.

Detroit will look to knock around Jay Cutler and slow down Matt

Forte on Sunday while pulling off a season sweep of the Bears,

winners of three straight.

Although these teams trail undefeated Green Bay in the NFC

North, they currently own the conference’s two wild-card spots.

However, the Lions (6-2) would own a potentially key tiebreaker

over Chicago (5-3) if they win this game and sweep the season

series for the first time since 2007.

The Bears lost 24-13 in Detroit on Oct. 10 as their offensive

line struggled, committing nine false start penalties – six in the

first half. Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch and the rest of the

Lions defense put Cutler under pressure for much of the day and

sacked him three times.

That may have been the low point of the first half of Chicago’s

season, but the offensive line’s improvement is a big reason the

Bears haven’t lost since that game.

Chicago is coming off a 30-24 victory at Philadelphia on Monday.

Cutler wasn’t sacked for the second time in 39 games with the Bears

as he completed 18 of 32 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns,

including the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

“They’re really coming together,” Forte said of the offensive

line after rushing for 133 yards. “They’re getting used to being in

the same positions that they’re in. A lot of injuries got healed

up, and they’re playing real well.”

Besides being more effective at keeping Cutler upright – he’s

been sacked three times in the last three games compared to 18 in

the first five – the Bears are running the ball more often and more

effectively. After averaging 53.7 yards on 17.0 attempts through

three games, the Bears have averaged 30.2 carries and 161.2 yards

in the last five.

Forte has run for 686 yards in that span while averaging 6.1 per

carry, and he leads the NFL with 1,241 all-purpose yards. He has

eight carries for more than 10 yards in the past three games.

Cutler said it all comes down to the players up front.

“(The offense) can do anything we want,” he said. “It’s an array

of things we have in this offense, and when that front five is

comfortable and they’re picking things up and the pocket is clean

… it’s going to be hard to stop us.”

The Bears will see how much they’ve improved when they get a

rematch against a Lions defense which is tied for fourth in the

league with 24 sacks and tied for fifth with 11 interceptions.

Additionally, Detroit is holding teams to a 29.1-percent third-down

conversion rate – best in the NFL.

While Chicago is coming off a short week, the Lions have been

off since a 45-10 victory over Denver on Oct. 30. Matthew Stafford

threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns while the defense sacked

Tim Tebow seven times.

After back-to-back losses in which the offense struggled to move

the ball, the Lions felt good going into their bye week, although

they know there’s room for improvement.

“The main thing we talked about was consistency,” coach Jim

Schwartz said. “We have played very, very well at times. Other

times, we haven’t played our very best. … Our challenge is to

make sure we don’t repeat mistakes and to keep the same thing from

biting us the same times.”

While the offense has stalled at times, especially with top

rusher Jahvid Best missing the last two games due to a concussion,

Detroit also has had problems stopping the run. Each of the Lions’

last seven opponents have rushed for at least 110 yards, and

they’re giving up 137.6 per game this season to rank 28th in the


Forte ran for 116 last month for his fourth 100-yard rushing

game in his last six meetings with Detroit.

The Detroit defense could benefit from the possible return of

rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley. This year’s 13th overall pick

missed the first month of the season and the Denver game with a

foot injury.

However, Best, who ran for 163 yards including an 88-yard

touchdown against the Bears, is unlikely to play this weekend.

Detroit has lost its last three visits to Chicago – all during

its league-record 26-game losing streak on the road. Since that

slide, however, the Lions have won a franchise-record six straight

away from home. This season, they’ve opened 4-0 on the road for the

first time since 1956, when they went on to win the NFL title.

“We’ve shown we’re a good team,” defensive end Cliff Avril said.

“But we also know that we haven’t done anything yet and that

there’s a lot of work left to do.”