Four Downs: Keys to beating the Lions (11/10/13)

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

1. Stop the run. Stop the run. Stop the run.

Remember what happened last time the Bears played the Lions? The Bears run defense made Reggie Bush look like an All Pro running back. … He’s not. The Bears need to tackle a lot better than they did in that Week 4 loss to the Lions. They need to tackle better than they have for most of the year. And it’s not just tackling, either, that’s been a problem for the Bears. Several times against the Packers, the Bears were filling the wrong gaps and leaving gaping holes for Eddie Lacy to run through. If the Bears can stop the run even marginally better than they did against the Lions previously, they will have increased their chances of winning by leaps and bounds.

2. Take care of the football

The other big problem the Bears faced when they played the Lions earlier this season was that they were careless with the football, specifically Jay Cutler. Cutler has had a great season. Aside from his incomplete Redskins game, when he left the game due to injury before halftime, Cutler’s only bad game was against the Lions. He turned the ball over four times, sometimes on really poorly thrown balls. One of Cutler’s interceptions that game truly turned the tide of the game in the second quarter. The Bears had their chances to come back, though. I don’t believe in one play early in a game affecting the whole outcome of a game, but that second quarter interception down the sideline to Brandon Marshall killed the Bears that quarter. We don’t know yet if Cutler will play this week or if Josh McCown will take the snaps again. But either way, the Bears have to take care of the ball.

3. Sustain long drives

The Bears laid the groundwork Monday night for how to beat teams the rest of this season while trying to compensate for their struggling defense. No, I’m not talking about injuring each team’s starting quarterback, although that was the biggest factor in the Bears’ victory over the Packers. I’m referring to the long drives the Bears sustained to chew up the clock and keep the ball in their hands. The most impressive drive of the game was the final one, a drive that was 18 plays long spanning 80 yards and almost nine minutes of game clock. That is the kind of drive that wears down a defense, particularly the big fatties in the middle of the defensive line. The Bears have that opportunity against the Lions, whose “big fatties” include Ndamukong Suh, the dirtiest player in the game. The Bears can wear down the Lions defense quickly if they come out early in the game and keep them on the field for long periods of time.

4. Get off the field on third downs

What we saw Monday night against the Packers was a Bears defense that did a much better job getting off the field on third down, something that has been a problem for them for much of the year. Again, it was against Seneca Wallace so we have to be careful about jumping too quickly to a conclusion, but it really helps a defense keep fresh throughout the game — and gain confidence — to tighten the clamps and get off the field on third down. If the Bears can force the Lions into third-and-long situations, they have a much greater chance of knocking off their divisional foes.

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