Ever since former Chicago Bear kicker Paul Edinger blasted a 54-yard, spirit-detonating field goal to prevent the Detroit Lions from advancing to the 2000 playoffs, the Bears have haunted and bullied the Lions for the better part of the decade.
That ill-fated Chicago victory on the Millenium’s very first Christmas day set the course for the downward spiral that would become after the Ford family hired the Moron. We all know the rest of the story.
Ahem…fast forward to to September 24th, 2009. Detroit may have cleansed its tortured soul with its upset win over the Washington Redskins, ending its 19-game losing skid in the process. Which, by the way, isn’t really a skid anymore after a few games, its a rolling avalanche of defeat. The Lions are of the belief they can turns things around in a positive direction, gain some traction with a few more wins. It can start to steamroll the right way if the Lions can pick up a road win at Soldier Field. Here’s how Detroit can do it:
Frustrate Forte For Less Than Forty (Yards)
Matt Forte is in danger of getting a sophomore slump tab if he doesn’t improve on his 2.5 yards per carry average. Opposing defenses have been able to neutralize Forte in the early part of the season but its only a matter of time before he gets loose in the same fashion he did in his rookie campaign. Many analysts think its going to happen this week against the Lions. If the Detroit defensive front can get a push and stuff Forte for a few short gains early on and the linebackers can stop him shy of a first down on any check-down throws, all signs will be pointing to Forte having another slow day. Defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill is doubtful for the Lions and fellow starting tackle Grady Jackson, who only gets about 20 snaps a game anyway, is questionable. The Lions re-signed Chuck Darby this week, but it remains to be seen if he is any shape to try and eat hearts (a great Rod Marinelli quotable), and second-year D-linemen Andre Fluellen and Landon Cohen are still raw and unproven. Forte is probably licking his chops knowing he is going up against a shallow Detroit defensive front unit, but if the Lions can make any surprising early stops, it certainly bodes well.
Stan Kwan Gets His Sh*t Right
Oh poor Stan Kwan. Really, why are you still employed with the Lions? I know you learned from the master Chuck Priefer, but the coverage and return units under your tenure have been horrid at best. If Devin Hester is able to tear the through the Detroit coverage for explosive plays, I’m sure Kwan will be hearing an earful from head coach Jim Schwartz. In fact, Schwartz would do well to follow the strategy that Marinelli took several seasons back in Chicago andjust kick it out of bounds. Any time you take the ball out of Hester’s hands is a small win. The Lions also need to watch out for Johnny Knox on kicks too, as the Chicago rookie has proven he is a burner to be reckoned with.
Linehan Gets Crafty
If Detroit has any shot at winning against Chicago on Sunday, its because offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will have called his best game of the year. With Lions starting running back Kevin Smith ailing and probably at only 75% or less, Linehan will have to figure out how to effectively pepper Maurice Morris and Aaron Brown into the run attack. In addition, the tight ends wil have to factor into the equation to take some pressure of Calvin Johnson and Bryant Johnson, who will both now draw some attention now that Bryant showed flashes of what he can do in the offense last week against Washington. Rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew has to show up big. Pettigrew has the ability to exploit Chicago linebackers Hunter Hillenmeyer and Lance Briggs in pass coverage and if Lion quarterback Matthew Stafford can take advantage of any mismatches, Pettigrew, along with Will Heller will have a chance to produce big time. Don’t be surprised if Linehan comes out in a two-minute offense or a no-huddle variation in the first few series of the game. If Stafford can develop a quick rhythm and catch Chicago off guard early, it can only help build momentum for the Lions to eventually put down the Bears.
DETROIT 24 CHICAGO 23
Down 23-21 with under two minutes left in the game, Matthew Stafford gets a helluva chance to prove his worth. Stafford will engineer a poised and surprisingly potent long drive to get the Lions within a chip shot for kicker Jason Hanson. Hanson boots the winner as time expires and Detroit starts believing it can actually do something in 2009. The win also proves to be watershed moment for coach Jim Schwartz, who will put his coaching acumen on display with several key challenges and adjustments in this contest.