I proposed five things to watch to help tell the story of last night’s game between the Lions and Bears. Let’s take a look back at all five to see how they played out.
1. The Ford Field Faithful
The Ford Field had a huge impact on the game as the Bears were called for nine false start penalties, including three on their opening drive alone. The hyped up crowd earned an SLR game ball from me and post game recognition from Lions players and coaches alike. Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel says this morning that Detroit is becoming one of the most hostile environments for opposing teams.
2. Come Home Having Learned from the Homecoming
Matthew Stafford was a little too amped up in his return to Dallas last weekend and it appeared that he let the Monday Night Football hype get to him a little bit in the first quarter. He made some uncharacteristic throws and the ball sailed on him a bit. It was definitely better than the beginning to the Cowboys game as he hooked up with Calvin Johnson for a big touchdown much earlier than in recent weeks.
3. Disruptive Defensive Line
Jay Cutler played a good game despite being harassed all night long. The problem for the Bears is he didn’t have any help besides Matt Forte and the Bears offensive line never allowed Jay Cutler any time to settle in. In fact, no quarterback has been under more duress in a game this year than Cutler was last night. From ESPN’s NFC North blog:
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cutler was under duress Monday night on a higher percentage of his passes than any quarterback in a single NFL game this season. On 16 of his 38 passes, Cutler was either forced from the pocket, had his throwing motion altered or faced a defender with a clear path in his line of sight. He was sacked three times and hit six times, according to press box statistics.
4. Return Game
The Lions didn’t gain much of an advantage from Stefan Logan but more importantly they didn’t let Devin Hester keep the Bears in the game with his return abilities. The Lions regularly punted out of bounds or towards the sideline to minimize Hester’s ability to bust a big return and Jason Hanson boomed each kickoff deep into the end zone and the coverage team did a nice job of containing Hester when he decided to bring it out of the end zone.
5. Calvin Johnson
CJ had been putting up big numbers but this was something of a breakout performance because of the national audience. Johnson combined big play ability and first down reliability in his five catches. His 73-yard touchdown from Stafford was just the sight Lions fans have dreamed about since the day the two stepped on the field together. Even Cris Carter is now admitting that Calvin Johnson is an elite receiver.