With quarterback Jay Cutler back in command, the Chicago Bears are poised to take control of the NFC North if they can get past a talented, but undisciplined Detroit Lions team on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field. Both teams, along with Green Bay, sit in a three-way tie atop the division.
The Lions may be licking their chops after beating the Bears 40-32 early in the season when they took advantage of Chicago miscues and Reggie Bush’s running to ring up a huge lead on the Bears before a late rally.
With that in mind, here are three keys to a Bears victory:
1. Pressure Detroit’s Matthew Stafford. The Bears will probably be without DE Shea McClellin, who collected three sacks in Monday night’s win over the Packers. Marc Trestman shared the second-year Boise State product would most likely miss Sunday’s game. Number 1 on a personal level, I feel bad for him if he doesn’t play,” Trestman said, “because he really had a good game last week.We all know that. And he was moving in the right direction, so certainly disappointed for him.”
A pass rush that has been lacking all season faces a major challenge with the big-armed Stafford in town. Rookie David Bass assumes McClellin’s role, and while he has some potential upside, is green as springtime grass. Trestman thinks Bass has improved noticeably since joining the Bears at the start of the season after being waived by Oakland. He has athletic ability, he’s strong up front, he can move around,” Trestman said. “And (defensive line coach) Mike Phair is working hard to continue to develop him. We think he’s got some upside and he’s certainly going got get an opportunity to play if this thing goes as we think it will.”
2. Limit game-changing plays by the Lions. This may be easier said than done. Detroit boasts big-time weapons in WR Calvin Johnson and Bush. In the earlier meeting between the two clubs, the Lions sprang Bush for huge yardage against a Bears defense already missing LB Lance Briggs. The Bears attack unit was exposed against Green Bay’s Eddie Lacey, who ran roughshod over a unit that has had issues with tackling all season.
3. Control the clock. The Bears managed to squeeze the life out of the Packers Monday with a 18-play, 80-yard drive that sealed a win. If the Bears can control the line of scrimmage, Chicago takes pressure off Cutler and keeps the potent Lions defense on the sideline. RB Matt Forte is an unsung player who delivers both in the ground game and as an outlet receiver. His ability to run in space and slide through a crease provides a perfect compliment to big-bodied receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.