Bears

Joniak: Keys To The Game

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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Check out Jeff Joniak’s Keys To The Game as your Chicago Bears face the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Bears Radio pre-game show begins at 9 a.m. C.T. and kick-off is at high Noon. GO BEARS!

Offense: Protect well enough to move the ball

Eleven games: hardly enough of a sample to learn, understand, and instinctively execute a new offensive system. It just doesn’t work that way in the NFL. Yet, the Bears have won eight times while learning this intricate offense on the fly. Most systems need at least three years of repetitions before everybody is on the same page. Jay Cutler is making plays with his feet and his extraordinary arm and his weapons are starting to play fast…guys like Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Greg Olsen, Earl Bennett, and Matt Forte. For the offense to continue to develop, the offensive line needs to continue to do the best job it can in protecting Cutler and opening holes for the balanced attack. Against the Lions, that means neutralizing one of the best front four’s and certainly one of the most underrated front four’s in the NFL.

Defense: Keep Johnson out of the end zone

This is essentially a repeat of my week one Keys to the Game for the Bears defense. Detroit’s best player is receiver Calvin Johnson. He is on a touchdown a game clip with 11 total and he feels he should have 12. That late fourth quarter incompletion in the end zone at Soldier Field was viewed by many experts as a touchdown catch. It wasn’t, and the Lions no doubt will use that in some form as motivation this week. Dating back to last season, Johnson has 15 touchdowns in his last 17 games. He’s by far the best offensive weapon in the NFC North and it doesn’t seem to matter who his quarterback is…Johnson scores touchdowns.

Special Teams: Field position

If the Bears keep returning kicks and taking the ball away on defense like they have throughout the season, they will continue to benefit from outstanding field position. They are the NFL leaders in average starting position (33 yard line) and are sixth in the NFL in starting position after kickoffs (29-yard line). Shorter fields create unrelenting pressure on a defense. One play of 25 or 30 yards and the Bears are quickly in enemy territory. So, continue to pressure the Lions in Detroit…creating enviable field position thanks to the defense, but also the return game with Devin Hester, Danieal Manning, and Johnny Knox.

Intangibles: Take it seriously

Under Lovie Smith the Bears are 9-and-9 on the road in the NFC North and 9-4 period against the Detroit Lions. Winning division games is the first step in becoming a playoff team. I see no reason why the Bears won’t take the Lions seriously given the talent they have a certain positions. They are banged up at quarterback and running back, but the Lions at home are a threat. They play teams hard. So do the Bears. A winning streak and a difficult December schedule should combine to keep the team focused on the task. There is a lot to play for in a tight and competitive NFC.

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