The Bears and Detroit Lions dont like each other very much. No surprise there; nobody much likes the Lions and their sometimes miscreant ways. NFL officials didnt think much of the Lions last week when they flagged Detroit 17 times and walked off 16 penalties in the game against Philadelphia, won in OT by the Lions.
Its not like I have to bring out the George Halas pep talk to get them ready to play Detroit, coach Lovie Smith said.
Ready will be the key.
Offense ready for next step?
The Bears rank No. 2 in the NFL scoring 29.8 points per game. But that is with five defensive touchdowns in the last three games, without which the average is less than 23 per game.
The offense managed just one touchdown in each game last season vs. Detroit, and even those needed help.
In game two, Matt Fortes six-yard touchdown run came at the end of a drive that started after Julius Peppers forced a fumble that Brian Urlacher recovered and took to the Detroit 16.
The other 30 points in the game came from a Devin Hester punt return, TD interceptions by Charles Tillman and Major Wright, and three Robbie Gould field goals.
The Bears moved the ball reasonably well (359 yards) in the first game but stopped themselves with six false-start penalties.
Since the last time the Bears saw the Lions (in Soldier Field last November) they have muscled up the offensive line mauler Chilo Rachal at left guard, No. 1 pick Gabe Carimi back at right tackle after missing both 2011 games with a knee injury, and JMarcus Webb a long, long way from the false-start machine that the Lions exploited when the teams met in Detroit on a Monday night last Oct. 10.
They have muscled up at wide receiver Brandon Marshall with 35 catches, only two fewer than co-leaders Johnny Knox and Roy Williams had for all of 2011.
And they have powered up overall with Mike Tice as coordinator, with his commitment to running the ball to establish the threat of play action. Tice was at the core of turnaround changes in game planning the past two seasons and the offense right now is statistically ahead of where it was in nearly all key areas from where it was at the time of Jay Cutlers thumb injury last year.
Typically it is at about this point of seasons with Cutler, and Tice, that the offense shifts into a bigger gear.
Offensively, I think since Ive been here, weve been learning new offenses pretty much each year and trying to grow with it, so it takes time for those things, Cutler said. Its not like you can just wake up one day and learn a new offense and its just going to click. It doesnt work.
It takes some time for everyone to get a feel for what were doing and know their assignments and experience things, and maybe theyve got to mess a couple things up before they really get it right.
With Green Bay and Minnesota winning on Sunday, the Bears remain the hunted in the NFC North, a division that would be a blown officials call (Green Bay at Seattle) of having three teams in the playoffs if they were starting today.
It should be like that in the division, and when everyone is playing good ball, you have to be ready each play, Smith said. There are a lot of stars for fans to watch in this game. And then to get a chance to play on Monday night. Theres just a lot of things. For us, having played a couple games on the road, were excited about coming back home this week.
Heres how I saw this game and the season to this point back before it all started:
7. Detroit Lions (10-6) Mon., Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m.
Analysis: Character issues are unanswered with the Jim Schwartz Lions, who have talent and went OL with their top pick (T Reilly Reiff) to deal with Julius Peppers. It wont be enough with Detroits problems in the secondary.
Result: W (5-1)
Well, Reiff hasnt been able to unseat aging vet Jeff Backus at left tackle but thats a side story. The Detroit secondary has been helped by the return of safety Louis Delmas from knee surgery but has injury problems at cornerback.
The Lions survived against Philadelphia in part of Matthew Staffords passing and Calvin Johnsons receiving at the finish of a game in which the Eagles proved so inept that they fired their defensive coordinator after the game.
The Bears wont be firing their D-coordinator. They wont have reason to:
Bears 24 Lions 13