Reporting Steve Silverman
By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Lovie Smith is never going to offer much when it comes to offering insight on his team’s play.
He will fulfill his obligations and meet with the press before and after games and say the bare minimum.
To football fans who are looking for insight from their head coach, Smith at the microphone is a constant source of frustration.
But he gets his simple message across to his players consistently and he gets effort from his players on an every-week basis.
The Bears don’t relax on Game Day and they never have during the Smith regime. He reaches them with his gameplan and he appeals to his players’ sense of pride with his words.
Consistent effort is the rule with the Bears.
That’s not the case with the Detroit Lions and Jim Schwartz. While Smith is an in-control sideline leader who prepares his team well, Schwartz is an emotional coach who never knows what he is going to see from his players on a week-to-week basis.
The Lions inexplicably lost three games in a row before they used a late rally to tie the Eagles and beat them in overtime in Week 6. For three quarters of the game, the offense looked lost and out of sync; but then the talent of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson came together and the Eagles had no answers.
It’s not a question of how that combination could perform so well in the clutch; it’s a question of where has that duo been on an every week basis?
Stafford and Johnson have to be the main focus for Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and the defense. They will be focused on not letting that talented duo go wild at Soldier Field on Sunday.
But when the Lions take the field, it seems that Schwartz and his coaches – most notably wild man defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham — have to be worried about his players’ focus.
Schwartz’s Lions are about as undisciplined a team as you will find in the NFL. The Lions have trouble keeping their focus on the field and off the field. Ndamukong Suh, Titus Young, Mikel Leshoure and Nick Fairley have all had problems with their off-the field actions in the last 12 months.
On the field, the Lions are constantly blowing their assignments due to penalties. They rank 30th in the league with 8.4 penalties per game. However, the trend is getting even worse. They have averaged 10.3 penalties per game over the last three games.
In the 26-23 win over the Eagles, the Lions committed 16 penalties.
Schwartz knows how to say the right things to the media during the week and he often comes across as friendly and thoughtful when speaking publicly.
However, on game day he gets amped up at a level that Bears fans never see from Smith. His team follows his example. They may get fired up, but they don’t have the quiet focus that Smith and his staff give the Bears.
The Lions made it to the playoffs last year for the first time since 1999. At the start of the season, the consensus was that the Lions might have enough to challenge the Packer in the NFC North based on their 10-6 2011 record.
But heading into Week 7, the Lions are aiming to play two good games in a row for the first time this season.
They are big, strong and talented. However, they make a slew of mistakes and they lose to teams like the Titans and the Vikings.
The Bears are talented on their own. They play up to their ability level most weeks.
Both teams follow the leads of their coaches. That should be enough to give the Bears the edge as they battle the team dressed in Honolulu Blue and Silver.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.