By Andrew Kahn
The Detroit Lions have won two Thanksgiving games in a row, both in blowout fashion no less. After nine straight losses on Turkey Day, it is a welcome change for Lions fans. With their 34-17 victory over the Chicago Bears yesterday, they improved to 8-4 and put themselves in strong position to make a run at the playoffs. Detroit tallied 474 yards of offense to Chicago’s 269 and won the turnover battle 2 to 1.
The return of Megatron
Since returning from injury, Calvin Johnson looked like himself in only one of the three games. Megatron was in full form yesterday, catching 11 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns, many on slants towards the middle of the field. His first score was classic Calvin, as he jumped to snag a 25-yard pass with two defenders converging on him. He used fancy footwork to get both feet in the end zone for another touchdown. There were concerns about Johnson: Was he healthy? Had he simply lost a step? But the best receiver in the NFL reminded everyone of that yesterday, repeatedly burning coverage for significant gains, often after Chicago had brought a blitz.
Bears’ hot start
The Lions had not scored a touchdown since November 9, so when Chicago took a 14-3 first quarter lead, it looked like Detroit may have another long day. The Bears forced a three-and-out on the game’s first possession and used five Jay Cutler completions to score quickly. After a strip-sack of Matthew Stafford, the Bears punched it in from the Detroit five. That was basically it for the Chicago offense, which was outscored 31-3 in the final three quarters.
Nowhere to run
Detroit has one of the best run defenses in the NFL, and Chicago barely tested it. The Bears ran just eight times for 13 yards. Matt Forte had some success catching passes out of the backfield, but his five carries went for just six yards. You don’t have to be multi-dimensional on offense to win, but it puts a lot of pressure on the pass game. Cutler attempted 48 passes and threw two interceptions.
Part of Detroit’s offensive resurgence yesterday was due to a faster tempo. While Detroit didn’t go no-huddle and slowed its pace late in the game to cut clock with a big lead, Detroit beat writer Michael Rothstein wrote that Detroit recently trimmed its playbook to operate more efficiently and had a greater sense of urgency on offense yesterday. It showed. Stafford was lethal, completing 75 percent of his passes to nine different players.
Chicago’s playoff hopes were dismal entering Thanksgiving, but after falling to 5-7 they are all but nonexistent. NumberFire.com projects than to have just a 0.1 percent chance of reaching the postseason. Detroit’s odds, on the other hand, improved to 76 percent. The Lions face Tampa Bay and Minnesota at home the next two weeks before travelling to Chicago and Green Bay to finish the season.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about the NFL and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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