Three Reasons the Detroit Lions can Lose in Chicago
By Jeff Risdon
The Detroit Lions are road favorites as they take on the Chicago Bears. This is just the second time this decade that the Lions are predicted by the books to win a divisional road game, and it comes one week after a loss in Green Bay.
Chicago is winless and starting backups at many key positions, notably quarterback, running back and cornerback. The banged up Bears are 30th in scoring offense and 24th in scoring defense.
Even so, the Detroit Lions could absolutely lose this game. Even though it seems improbable, here are three ways Jim Caldwell and the visiting Lions can lose in Chicago.
The Bears don’t create many takeaways, forcing just two in their three losses. Unfortunately for Detroit, the Lions are even worse at getting the ball away from the opposing offense. Glover Quin’s INT in the Tennessee loss is the only takeaway the Detroit Lions have on the season.
While Matthew Stafford and the offense have done a pretty strong job of protecting the football with just two turnovers, the defense must start creating more opportunities. Chicago averages two giveaways per game and it really cost them in last week’s loss to Dallas. If the Lions can’t come out of this game at least plus-1 in the turnover column, the Bears have a chance. If Detroit winds up minus-2, an upset is very likely.
This has not been a good 2016 campaign for Head Coach Jim Caldwell or Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin. Neither coach has adequately prepared their lieges for battle. From the rash of asinine penalties in the loss to Tennessee to the endemic communication issues between the linebackers and secondary in coverage, these Detroit Lions have shown very little sign they are a well-coached team.
Austin is the man on the spot. Not having Ziggy Ansah and DeAndre Levy is a legit hindrance to his job, but he must adapt his scheme to the talent on hand. In the last three weeks, we have seen very little indication Austin understands how to put the players he does have in position to succeed.
From dropping Haloti Ngata in zone coverage to asking Thurston Armbrister to play in man coverage on Jordy Nelson, Austin has made some ponderous choices. When Indianapolis ripped off its big comeback in the opener, Austin’s defense largely stopped being creative up front to try and get pressure on Andrew Luck.
When you have backup linebackers like Armbrister and Kyle Van Noy (who shouldn’t be a starter) who have no real chance in coverage, the logical option is to have them blitz. Or at least feign the blitz before dropping into a zone instead of having the 330-pound nose tackle roaming in space.
To Caldwell’s credit, he kept his team in the game mentally last week after one of the worst halves of Lions football in memory. His halftime adjustments, in coordination with Jim Bob Cooter and the offense, have been effective. But overall Caldwell still doesn’t inspire confidence, not with the consistently sloppy play and poor decisions.
Bears fans feel much the same way about John Fox, so simply being the less egregious coach should be enough for Caldwell and the Detroit Lions. Even though that’s a low bar, I don’t trust Caldwell to clear it.
It seems crazy the Lions would enter any road game brimming with overconfidence in a victory.
But if you don’t think the Detroit Lions can screw that up, you haven’t been a Lions fan very long…
This was much the same situation as the Tennessee game. The Lions clearly expected to win, and with good reason. But they played undisciplined and uncoordinated football, and they lost to a clearly inferior opponent.
The Lions must respect the opponent. Sure, they’ll say the right things and won’t outwardly exude the kind of swaggering cockiness that doomed the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Even though the Bears injury list is longer than their healthy player list, they are still an NFL team. They have pride and an air of desperation. If the Lions don’t respect that, it could backfire.
Those are three ways the Lions could lose. Even so, I like the Lions to win in Chicago 30-20.