By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) The Lions had plenty to be thankful for when the Bears who turned up at Ford Field this past Thanksgiving.READ MORE: Chicago Weather Alert: Snow Totals From Lake Effect Snowstorm
As they’ve been all season, the Bears were the “get well” team for Detroit, who doubled up Chicago 34-17. In the process, the Bears helped the Lions break their two-game losing streak, snap their offense’s streak of 22 drives without a touchdown and catapulted them to a three-game winning streak and the top of the NFC North.
All signs point to the 10-4 Lions making it four straight against the 5-9 Bears who somehow managed to find a place less than zero.
Most assumed the Bears had already bottomed out during their dismal season, yet they hadn’t. In just over a week, they have endured a tearful apology by offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer to the offense for telling the truth about quarterback Jay Cutler’s dreadful decision making, another prime-time blowout and have now made the switch from Cutler to Jimmy Clausen.
Why the Bears waited until Week 16 to make a change at quarterback is open to endless speculation.
Perhaps general manager Phil Emery is trying to keep Cutler from getting injured in hopes of trading him this offseason? Perhaps head coach Marc Trestman knows his time is up in Chicago and this is his audition for teams considering a new quarterbacks coach or possibly an offensive coordinator change in the offseason to show them his system works?
Trestman previously stated that as long as Cutler was healthy he would be the quarterback, but obviously that’s no longer the case.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Trestman said. “I think this is in the best interest of the team. I think we need a lift at quarterback I think we need a spark. the weight of the world should not be on Jimmy Clausen. He’s going to get an opportunity to play and I’m hoping that our team, against a very very good defense, we all know that, they’ll be some response from our football team.”
There certainly will be a response from the team, likely another loss.
Throwing Clausen to the wolves — err, Lions — is a daunting task. Detroit is allowing league-low totals in points (17) and rushing yards (63) per game. In their previous meeting, the Bears didn’t even make an attempt to test the Lions’ defensive front, running the ball seven times for 13 yards, technically eight if you count a kneel-down by Cutler.READ MORE: Chicago Weather Alert: Dangerous Driving Conditions With Snow Causing Low Visibility Friday
The Bears willingly made themselves one-dimensional and can’t replicate that imbalanced approach if they have any hopes of moving the football and easing Clausen into his first start in nearly four years.
“The running game is gonna help any quarterback, it does everything,” Trestman said. “It opens up the play-action game. It opens up the movement game and all the things that can help or neutralize the pass rush of the type that the Lions have.”
The Bears used the horizontal passing game as an extension of the run last time through, but have to put more trust in their offensive line to get movement along the line of scrimmage.
“Certainly part of our game plan is to run the ball, as it should be,” Trestman said. “We know it’s not gonna be easy. [They have] the best run defense in the league or thereabout. But we know that’s gonna be a part of what we do on Sunday.”
The Bears didn’t practice on Wednesday, so Clausen has had one less day to prepare for a Lions’ defense that certainly has his attention, particularly up front.
“Their front four,” Clausen said. “You start up there. They’re great. Great eight guys, is what they have. They just rotate eight guys through. They definitely get to the quarterback, stop the run. They have great linebackers and secondary, just get around the ball, they fly around and make tackles and make plays.”
Early on in their previous matchup, the Bears’ offense got the Lions’ defense on its heels, playing with tempo, spreading the ball around and making quick decisions. Clausen hopes to replicate that plan for four quarters.
“You definitely don’t want to hold the ball against these guys. as you’ve seen, their front four, they get to the quarterback the best in the league,” Clausen said. “The biggest thing for us is just taking care of the football, getting the ball out, staying on rhythm and just moving the chains.”
Defensively, the Bears will have to play tighter coverage on the perimeter if they want to stop Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who had his way against rookie Kyle Fuller back in November. Johnson needs just 65 receiving yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the fifth-consecutive season.
Early on, the Bears pass rush had some life to it on the fast playing surface at Ford Field. Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was dealing with some injuries along his offensive line and the deep drops he was calling weren’t being blocked.
Lombardi adjusted with shorter drops for Matthew Stafford, who carved up the Bears like a Thanksgiving turkey, racking up 390 yards, two touchdowns and a 116 passer-efficiency rating.
Chances are the Bears will offer little resistance against Stafford, as they’ve allowed a league-high 33 passing touchdowns this season. Look for the Lions in a laugher, setting up a showdown against the Packers in Lambeau next week.
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.