When the Lions have the ball
As the weeks go by, the likelihood that starting quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s back injury will keep him on the shelf for the balance of 2019 continues to rise. It’s given the Lions a chance to get a serious read on what they have – and what they don’t have – in the rest of the quarterback room.
Jeff Driskel‘s first start in place of Stafford came against these same Bears less than three full weeks ago, and despite the outcome, he had the Lions in position to win that game, as he did the week after. His running ability is his biggest strength, though his ghastly decision making at the end of last week’s loss against the Washington Redskins sealed the Lions’ fate in that contest.
Driskel’s wheels are certainly something that the Lions will look to use to their advantage again – he has averaged over 50 yards on the ground in his three starts. That won’t be enough by itself against the Bears’ stingy run defense (top-10 in fewest yards per game and yards per attempt allowed). Despite his limited arm strength, he will need to continue to try and look for receiver Marvin Jones at all levels of the field, who has caught 14 balls since Stafford went down.
Co-wideout Kenny Golladay has just eight receptions over that span and had some costly miscues against the Bears in their last meeting. Look for him and Jones to be more involved early in the gameplan against the Bears’ veteran cornerback duo of Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara.
Driskel did pop up on this week’s preliminary injury reports with a hamstring issue. Should the nearly unthinkable happen and he be forced to sit, the Lions would have to trot out David Blough under center, he of zero career regular-season snaps. Current tight end and former quarterback Logan Thomas would likely be the emergency backup in that situation. Hey, that might be fun!
Despite the Bears’ disappointing season, it’s hard to attach much blame to their defense, which continues to be one of the strongest in the league. They rank in the top five in fewest points and yards allowed per game, thanks to a stout front seven led by All-Pro edge defender Khalil Mack. The veteran had a quiet first game against the Lions this season, chances are that won’t happen again.
Despite remaining a solid unit, the Bears’ defense hasn’t been able to replicate last year’s staggering takeaway numbers. They are on pace to force just 22 turnovers, not even close to last season’s impressive total of 36.
For Detroit, It remains to be seen if Bo Scarbrough can become much more than a rotational player. However, the bruising tailback has given the Lions’ running game a nice spark in two games since being called up from the practice squad. He just missed his first 100-yard game against the Redskins and has a knack for gaining yards after contact. Keep an eye on his ball security, though; he lost a costly fumble last week in a pile-up pushing for extra yards that weren’t there.