Four Downs: Keys to beating the Lions (11/13/11)

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Making life miserable for Matthew Stafford will make the postgame feel much better for the Bears.
Making life miserable for Matthew Stafford will make the postgame feel much better for the Bears.

A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Detroit Lions.

1. Match the physicality of last week, and the intensity of Lions this week

Lovie Smith made it clear after the Eagles game Monday night that he was not happy his team was eight-point underdogs against Philadelphia. He felt it was disrespectful and he used that as motivation for his players. It was clear, even before kickoff, that the Bears meant business and they simply outperformed the Eagles and were much more physical than they were. With that in mind, there’s no reason the Bears shouldn’t be as physical, if not more, when they take on division-rival Detroit this week. Not only do the Lions sit a game ahead of the Bears in the NFC North, but the Lions won the first meeting of the season between these two teams and the Bears will be looking for revenge and to cancel out the tiebreaker between the two teams.

2. Apply similar pressure on Matthew Stafford as on Michael Vick

The Bears defense managed to sack Michael Vick just one time last week, but it was the consistent pass rush and the applied pressure that helped throw Vick off his game. Not only were Bears defenders getting into Vick’s face and causing him to hurry his throws, but they were punishing Vick with hits after the throw, which probably accumulated throughout the night and left him feeling the effects in the fourth quarter. The Lions have a dangerous passing attack, too, so the Bears will need to focus on making Stafford uncomfortable in the pocket.

3. Run the football repeatedly

Detroit has the 28th-ranked run defense in the league and is allowing 137.6 yards per game on the ground. They’re also giving up 5.2 yards per carry, second-worst in the NFL. Given Matt Forte’s propensity to break off big runs and the offensive line’s recent ability to spring him loose to the second level without even being touched, Forte could be in for yet another big game. If Mike Martz stays committed to the run game, the Bears should control the clock and keep the Lions’ explosive offense on the sideline.

4. Protect the football

Normally a key to winning any football game, this is of particular importance against the Lions. Detroit leads the league with a plus-13 turnover ratio. They’re fifth in the league with 11 interceptions, and they’ve forced nine fumbles and have recovered seven of them, both Top-7 rankings. Detroit also is tops in the league with three interception returns for touchdowns and they’ve added a fumble return touchdown as well. The Lions have a mean and nasty front four and they play borderline dirty. It’s almost as if they’re overcompensating for being a bad franchise for such a long period of time. They’re fourth in the league in sacks with 24 and can create havoc for an offense.

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