Four Downs: Keys to beating the Lions (01/03/16)

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

1. Seek to confuse Matthew Stafford

The Bears are facing a very one-sided Detroit Lions offense on Sunday. The Lions are 31st in the NFL in rushing yards and focus heavily on the pass. The Bears can use this opportunity to send more pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford and seek to confuse him and keep him off his game. Stafford is sixth in the league in interceptions and is not afraid to take chances or try to fit passes in tight windows.

2. Force Lions offense into third and long

Given how bad the Lions have been at running the football this season, the Bears can’t give them any breaks. When these two teams met up earlier this season, the duo of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick rushed for just 76 yards. But the Bears allowed Stafford to throw for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Lions’ comeback win. The defense needs to shut down the run on first and second down to force the Lions into long conversion attempts, when anything can happen.

3. Bracket Calvin Johnson

The Lions’ No. 1 receiver has been hobbled virtually all season by an ankle injury, but is still capable of doing damage. While never a burner, Johnson doesn’t quite have the speed anymore to blow by the secondary, but he can still get up and make catches over smaller defenders. If the Bears keep the window tight on Johnson, they’ll force Stafford to either look elsewhere or risk throwing a pick.

4. Play a full 60 minutes

The Bears have several games this year that they can look back at and say, “if only…”. But the most telling of them all was the blown fourth quarter lead when they gifted the winless Lions their first victory of the season. The Bears scored two straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give themselves a 31-24 lead with just half a quarter to play. They then laid down and allowed the Lions to go on a 13-play drive for a field goal, then the Bears offense went three-and-out, and then the Lions scored five plays later to take a 34-31 lead. The Bears would tie it to go to overtime, but eventually lost in the extra period. This time around, if/when the Bears have their foot on the throat of the Lions, they have to finish strong.

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