By Jeff Joniak-
(WBBM) Here are Jeff Joniak’s “Keys to the Game” for the Bears as they head to Detroit for a key divisional matchup.
Defense: Get off the field
Despite the fact the Detroit Lions have managed only four wins, they are equipped to score by throwing it a lot. The Bears gameplan must include a time of possession component because Matthew Stafford will throw it 70 times if he needs to. His touchdowns have dropped from 41 to 17 this season, but he’s trying to become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson is trying to become the first 5,000-yard receiver. Mikel LeShoure is running hard as well. The Bears must pressure Stafford, get off the field on third down, and shut down the run. In the first meeting, the Lions had opportunities to score on the Bears in the red zone and failed. They have to keep them away from the red zone Sunday at Ford Field and make them work for every yard. The longer it takes for the Lions to cobble something together, the quicker they could become uninterested in trying to beat the Bears.
Offense: Control The Ball
There is one thing you can count on for certain in Detroit on Sunday, and that is a physical, hard-hitting, after-the-whistle football game. Some of the most abusive hits in Jay Cutler’s career have come against the Lions Ndamukung Suh. He will try to do the same Sunday in a rivalry game. Potentially without running back Matt Forte, the Bears will have to lean on Kahlil Bell and Armando Allen to beat the Lions. Piling up first downs with a balanced, rugged, power game and efficient passing will be key in taking over the clock. Getting into a shooting match with the Lions doesn’t sound like a good idea.
Special Teams: Clean it up
There were some errors in judgement and execution on the punt return unit and on field goal protection against Detroit. Punt coverage continues to excel with the unit permitting only 84 yards in the first 15 games. Kudos to punter Adam Podlesh, who is creating opportunities to down the ball because of hang time, directional placement, and favorable bounces. In addition, players like Eric Weems and Zach Bowman have done a great job getting down the field, beating the jams and making tackles. In a game where every little bit helps, the Bears will take everything they can get against Detroit.
Intangibles: Let It All Hang Out
There is nothing to lose here as the Bears need to beat the Lions and hope for a Green Bay win at Minnesota to clinch a wildcard berth in the NFC. With the potential of Matt Forte and Chris Conte out with injuries, guys like Bell, Allen and Anthony Walters will be asked to fill big roles. There’s a chance Brian Urlacher can return nearly a month removed from his hamstring injury, and Henry Melton could return from his clavicle injury. Whatever is left in the tank has to be emptied against the Lions. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy, especially against a division opponent hoping to spoil the stew.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffJoniak.