Nov 13, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) makes a catch over Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (33) in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. The Bears defeat the Lions 37-13. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE
The Detroit Lions head into Chicago for a big week 7 matchup with the Bears on Monday Night Football. I got together with Mike Burzawa, editor at Bear Goggles On, to get a few questions answered about this week’s game.
1. With the Bears holding down sole possession of first place, are fans’ raising their expectations for this season?
Mike Burzawa: When Jay Cutler got hurt last season, the Bears were 7-1 and hopes were sky high for a deep playoff run, so fans were already hyped with his healthy return this season. What really sent Bears Nation into a frenzy was the day Brandon Marshall‘s plane landed in Chicago. With a legitimate #1 wide receiver for Cutler to target, fans (and this blogger) believed it was time for the offense to lead this team while the aging defense might start to take a back seat.
That hasn’t been the case. The offense has been off to a bit of the slow start, but the defense has been as good as ever. A slow start by the Packers and Lions has helped the Bears get an early jump on the NFC North race, along with the surprising Vikings. Anything short of a deep playoff run would be a disappointment for the Bears.
2. The Bears seem to score as much on defense as they do on offense, what do the Lions need to do to end the Bears’ defensive touchdown streak?
MB: Stop throwing them the ball and teach your offensive players to tackle better. Kidding aside, the key to the Bears’ defensive success this season has been their defensive line. They’ve been able to generate a strong pass rush mostly with their front four and force opposing quarterbacks into mistakes. If the Lions can protect Stafford, they’ll have a chance to slow down the Bears turnover machine. It would also help to try to get a running game going. I seem to remember that game at Ford Field last season when Jahvid Best went off for about 160 yards.
3. How big of a loss is Alshon Jeffery with the broken hand? Any worries it will let defenses key on Brandon Marshall even more?
MB: Losing an up-and-coming big receiver like Jeffery hurts, but other receivers on the Bears have been stepping up alongside Brandon Marshall. Devin Hester has never been properly cast in the Bears’ offense, but now with other receivers in more prominent roles, he’s able to get a few plays that are meaningful. Earl Bennett is coming off a hand injury of his own and due to come back for Monday Night’s game, so that will help make up for Jeffery’s loss a bit. Jeffery has been especially good in the red zone, so look for the big tight end Kellen Davis to try step up in his absence too.
4. Phil Simms said this week that he’d take Jay Cutler over Matthew Stafford. I’ve witnessed Bears fans get on Jay Cutler first-hand so I’m curious if that sentiment is echoed by the Bears fanbase. What do you say?
MB: Wow, that’s a tough question. I’m going to answer this without looking up any stats on either of the two gunslingers. I know that Stafford had a monster season last year and piled up a ton of yards, but I feel like he’s still a little inconsistent as evidenced by his struggles this season. I know that’s tough to say from a Jay Cutler fan, the King of the multi-pick game. Cutler may not be the most liked guy and he’s bound to have a clunker of a game here and there, but I like his physical tools better than Stafford, so for that reason I’ll take Cutler.
5. How do you see this game playing out and what will be the final score?
MB: I think this is going to be a battle. The Bears will have not played for 15 days when they kick off on Monday night, which could lead to some early rust. If they can get over the rust early and get a lead, they could run away with this one. Unless I’m mistaken, the Lions have trailed in the fourth quarter in all of their games this season. If that happens on Monday night, there will be no comeback. Bears defense continues their touchdown streak and Devin Hester brings a punt back, Bears 27-Lions 20