Run defense: 3/5 stars
The game started off about as poorly as it could have for the Lions’ run defense. Chicago ran for 129 yards in the first quarter, with over 100 coming from quarterback Justin Fields. Everything seemed to be setting up for a dismal game defending the run.
Then something incredible happened, the Lions adjusted. The defensive front elevated their play, forced Chicago into more passings situations, and the margin provided by the offense eliminated the run game from the Bears’ offense. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but the front was able to neutralize the run after a disastrous first quarter.
Pass defense: 5/5 stars
Chicago had 30 net passing yards on Sunday. The Detroit Lions had as many sacks (seven) as Fields had completions in the game. As soon as the Lions shut down the run, the Bears couldn’t do anything offensively. After the strong two opening drives, the Bears scored zero points the rest of the way. It was a defensive masterclass in the second half.
A lot of credit goes to the defensive front. We will touch on two of the star rookies in a moment, but there are a lot of guys who deserve recognition. Firstly, Josh Paschal picked up his first two career sacks on Sunday. The first he showed a relentless bull rush from the 4i alignment and collapsed the pocket before wrapping up Fields. On the second he held the contain perfectly and brought Fields down the second he tried to roll out right. John Cominsky has been a revelation pressuring the quarterback all season, and he absolutely needs to be brought back next year. Alim McNeill, Isaiah Buggs, and Benito Jones also all had nice days rushing from the interior.
Best defensive player(s): Aidan Hutchinson, James Houston
Though for all the work the defensive front did Sunday, these two rookies stood out. Hutchinson didn’t have the sacks (though he did get credited with a half-sack), but he did just about everything else. His evolution against mobile quarterbacks has been incredible. He was playing Fields with an incredible amount of discipline off the edge and not falling for the same tricks he did earlier in the season. For good measure he also grabbed his third interception of the season. He had about as complete a game as he could have, he just didn’t have the box score stats his teammates did.
As for Houston, what a find he has been. After his first game without a sack in Carolina, he racked up three against the Bears. Now up to eight in his first six career games, Houston is off to a historic start to his career.
Not bad for a sixth-round pick who didn’t even make the team out of camp. His evolution from the least noticeable player in the edge rotation in the preseason to leading the team, and all NFL rookies, in sacks is quite frankly incredible.
Worst defensive player(s): No one
Just like the offense, no one dragged the Lions’ defense down on Sunday. Everyone stood together and flipped the script after a poor start. While the defensive line played a major role in this game due to the pass rush and stopping the run, the secondary held up as well when called upon.