This past weekend, we saw the rematch of league rivals, the 4-8 Chicago Bears and the 9-3 Detroit Lions. The Bears dominated the field when they met the Lions in Detroit three weeks ago, leading the game 26-14 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter. But, in typical Lions fashion, the home team proved to those watching that they should not be discounted. They scored an explosive two touchdowns and a safety within the game’s last three minutes.
Many were convinced the Lions would again prove victorious in the rematch that took place this past weekend. The Lions beat the Bears once, so they should be able to do it again, right? As Lions Nation knows all too well, don’t take anything for granted. The Lions were outplayed by the last-place NFC North team. In fact, since the Lions faced the Bears in Week 11, the up-and-coming team has fallen back into their old ways.
Here are six takeaways from Week 14’s matchup.
What We Learned From the Lions Loss to the Bears
1. The Lions Defense Must be Ready to Put Pressure on Mobile Quarterbacks
This was a big problem for the Lions initial matchup with the Bears which almost led to a loss.
During the Week 11 contest, Bears quarterback, Justin Fields, rushed for 104 yards. To put into perspective just how impressive that statistic is, in 2022, the average rushing yards per game for an NFL quarterback was 15.5 yards. Fields has proven his athleticism and strength, surpassing that average with flying colors. That is why, going into this Week 14 game, it was imperative for Dan Campbell and Aaron Glenn to formulate a defensive plan to stop Fields’ run game. Injuries going into the game and the lack of discipline allowed Fields to rush 47 yards in the first 10 minutes of the game.
The Lions’ persistent inability to apply pressure to mobile quarterbacks was also evident during the Thanksgiving day matchup against the Green Bay Packers. The Lions’ failure to apply substantial pressure to Jordan Love led to 39 rushing yards and the disappointing loss of the long-standing Thanksgiving Day game.
If the Lions want to be a force in the playoffs and beat teams such as the Eagles, the Lions must find a way to be successful in applying pressure to these quarterbacks that have run games. If not, they will be a first-round exit.
2. The Lions Need to Steer Clear of Penalties
The excessive number of penalties accumulated by the Lions served as a gift to the Bears. By the end of the game, the Lions accrued eight penalties totaling 59 yards. These penalties included a tripping penalty against Graham Glasgow for 15 yards, a defensive holding and unnecessary roughness penalty against Alex Anzalone for a combined 20 yards, and a false start penalty against Penei Sewell for five yards.
Compared to four penalties called on the Bears, the lost yardage was clearly a contributing factor in the Lions loss. These penalties prevented the Lions from being able to convert to first down and helped the Bears gain the first down they needed to extend their possession. The countless mistakes by the Lions only made it more apparent how sloppy and undisciplined of a game they were playing.
3. The Lions Need a Consistent Offense
Goff only completed 20 of his 35 passing attempts for a total of 161 yards, well below his totals this season. He had two interceptions and a fumble and was sacked four times. Goff’s inability to get past the first set of downs during the third quarter and into the fourth quarter highlighted his and the teams’ struggles.
Before yesterday, St. Brown averaged 95 receiving yards per game. When playing the Bears, he only recorded three receptions out of nine for a total of 21 yards. A big contributing factor to this was his inability to both catch the ball and hold on to the ball.
Much like St. Brown, LaPorta’s statistics were far from impressive. LaPorta averaged 57 yards per game up until Week 14. Yet, when put up against the Bears defensive line, he was only able to haul in two out of six receptions for a total of 23 yards.
Although their performance was disappointing, it is not fair to single out these two players for having one bad game. If anything, this is a wake-up call; the Lions need to start utilizing other offensive players to alleviate some of the pressure on LaPorta and St. Brown to save the team. A perfect example of this would be taking advantage of their 2022 first-round draft pick, Jameson Williams.
4. The Offensive Line Needs to do a Better Job Protecting Jared Goff
This has been a recurring issue for the Lions for the entirety of this season. The problem is magnified when losing games to objectively worse teams. Unlike Fields, Goff is not a mobile quarterback. Goff’s most successful rushing game this season only yielded 10 yards with many games at zero or negative rushing yardage.
This should not be a surprise, Goff has never been a mobile quarterback. He thrives under the protection of defense, being able to make very calculated decisions when given time. But the second a defensive player begins to apply pressure, he panics and makes impulsive decisions. This past Sunday, Goff only threw for 161 yards, 92 yards less than his 253 average. This external stress by the Bears defensive line also led to two interceptions and four fumbles.
People are quick to blame Goff entirely for the poor performance of the Lions these past few weeks. But look at the entire picture, the entire team must be held accountable.
5. Ben Johnson Needs to Carry Out More Creative Offensive Plays Instead of Being Predictable.
The one thing that the coaching staff has always been able to do is be creative and unpredictable. But in these past few games, the Lions have been anything but that, playing the game in a way that is almost too easy for the opposing team’s defense.
Thanks to those creative plays, the Lions were able to hold onto the game by the end of the second quarter, leading the Bears 13-10. But when the Lions left the locker room after halftime, it was as if they left their creativity in there as well. The lack of creative and unpredictable plays and the abundance of lateral passes and running the ball through the middle made it extremely easy for the Bears to effectively cover the Lions.
Despite this strategy not working in this game, or any game for that matter, Ben Johnson continued to try to force this strategy of football into his play callings. The Lions coaching staff needs to realize that what the Lions do best is unpredictability. Taking a chance, although it doesn’t always work out, is better than sticking to the same regime day in and day out that is not allowing the Lions to succeed.
6. If the Lions Continue to Play as They Are, They Will be a First-Round Exit in the Playoffs
If the Lions want to give their devoted fans a playoff win for the first time since 1991, they will need to find a way to eliminate the growing inadequacies in their game. If they don’t, a team that understands their weakness and works to strengthen their game will take this opportunity away from them.
If the Lions lose to teams like Chicago and Green Bay, what is going to happen when the Lions are placed in front of teams like the San Fransisco 49ers or the Philadelphia Eagles?
The Lions team that has shown up the past three weeks is not the same explosive team that has been impressing the football world since midseason last year. If not careful, this promising team will begin to morph into the “same old Lions” team that cannot seem to do anything right.
The Lions seemed to have lost the confidence and fiery energy that we all have grown to know and love. That is what set them apart from so many other teams in the NFL. Their persistence and determination each and every week have translated into wins no matter how tough of an opponent. The Detroit Lions need to get back to that place, old habits are hard to break.
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