Four Downs: Keys to beating the Lions (09/29/13)

September 25th, 2013 - 8:52 pm

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

Reggie Bush should be back on Sunday and he's a difficult back to contain out of the backfield.

Reggie Bush should be back on Sunday and he’s a difficult back to contain out of the backfield.

1. Don’t leave Reggie Bush alone in space

Lions running back Reggie Bush missed last week with a knee injury but he reportedly will be ready to play this week against the Bears. Bush is perhaps the best receiving running back in the NFL, the original Darren Sproles before Sproles even came on to the scene in New Orleans. Bush earns his living out in open space and isn’t a good between-the-tackles runner. He does the most damage when he catches swing passes and checkdowns and uses his elusive running to evade tacklers in the open field. The Bears defense cannot let him get loose on the outside, and they have to keep a defender shadowing him at all times.

2. Stay over the top on Calvin Johnson

The Bears already faced one of the best receivers in the league in Week 1 against the Bengals. A.J. Green had a great game against them and Charles Tillman just couldn’t keep up with him. Tillman has had more success against Lions receiver Calvin Johnson over the years than most cornerbacks in the league. Unfortunately, he’s been battling injuries all month. Johnson and Green are very similar receivers and are tough to defend one on one. If Johnson gets past Tillman — or Tim Jennings or Zack Bowman or whichever cornerback is defending him — he could do some major damage. The Bears need their safeties over the top to help out on passes that quarterback Matthew Stafford puts up for grabs.

3. Take the crowd out early; make the Lions one-dimensional

Just like last week against the Steelers when the Bears took nearly half the first quarter off the clock on their opening drive, the Bears need to get off the field quickly on defense and stay on the field for a prolonged drive offensively. A big Devin Hester return, a quick score, or an early takeaway are all surefire ways to take the Lions’ crowd out of the game. And after building some early momentum, the Lions will become a one-dimensional team looking to pass on every down. It’s something they do well, but it will be easier to defend knowing when it’s coming.

4. Get Matt Forte outside the tackle box

One of the most intriguing matchups of this game will be Bears rookie guard Kyle Long against Lions defensive tackle, cheap-shot artist, and resident thug, Ndamukong Suh. I think Long can hold his own, but it’s probably not wise to give the ball to Matt Forte and let him try to pound the ball up the middle. Besides Suh, the Lions have Nick Fairley at the other defensive tackle position, forming one of the best tandems in the NFL. It wouldn’t be wise to run up the gut against either of those two. Forte will be most effective running off tackle behind Jordan Mills or Jermon Bushrod. And, just as Bush is a good receiving back for the Lions, Forte will come in handy catching passes out of the backfield for the Bears.