When the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears collide, the battle is usually as tough and physical as both hardscrabble cities themselves, making trench warfare particularly significant.
This season, considering the early struggles of the Lions’ offensive line and the power of the Bears’ defensive front, that will be particularly true. Detroit’s offense is struggling, and Chicago’s defense, while not as elite as past seasons, can certainly harass opposing quarterbacks.
Look no further for the key on Thanksgiving. Matthew Stafford, this season more than most, needs time to survey the field. Detroit’s offensive line has been badly mangled by injuries in recent weeks, seeing players like Larry Warford, LaAdrian Waddle and most recently Riley Reiff get dinged up.
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As a result, the pressure’s been on young Corneilius Lucas to grow up fast, and the results have been average at best for Detroit. The troubles of a mixed up mash unit to hold up were a significant problem against the New England Patriots, and have caused plenty of difficulties for the offense in the last several weeks of play.
Thursday, the Bears will bring former Lion Willie Young (8.0 sacks) and Detroit tormenter Jared Allen (2.5 sacks, one forced fumble) to Ford Field, meaning the pressure on the line to hold up on the ends will only intensify. Chicago also features Stephen Paea (6.0 sacks) up the middle, and a lineup that has combined for 27 total sacks this season, good for 12th in the league.
Detroit’s hard-luck offensive line needs to find a way to keep these players off the stat sheet, and the offense must be tailored to helping them best do this. Stafford should be given quicker passes to throw, so he doesn’t need to constantly depend on a wide pocket to make every single throw on the field. Winning individual battles will be key, but smart play calling from Joe Lombardi could also help mitigate the effects of Chicago’s pass rush.
Winning individual battles will be key, but smart play calling from Joe Lombardi could also help mitigate the effects of Chicago’s pass rush.
Additionally, it will be up to the line to open a few holes for Detroit’s beleaguered running game. Last season, the Lions rushed for over 100 yards in both games against the Bears, helping their offensive balance immensely. A similar effort on Thursday would likely help Stafford shake off some of his highly-documented passing woes from recent weeks.
Somehow, whomever starts along the Lions’ offensive line will have to win important battles up front against the Bears. It will be the key to unlocking everything the offense must to do in order to improve.