## Bear PAWS: Bears & Lions both running out of time

Bears

Some use the phrase “25th Hour” to convey a message indicating it’s too late to get objectives accomplished. Another conflicting version suggests that it’s the very last time something can be completed, or salvaged. Considering the Bears and Lions' 2019 seasons thus far, it's a perfect analogy for both teams as they fight to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Win or lose, Sunday’s results might mathematically eliminate one of these teams from the postseason discussion. Be that as it may, let's utilize P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis With Statistics) to see if the number 25 might illuminate successful opportunities for Chicago in this late hour.

Entering Week 10, the Lions are 25th in points allowed (217) but that ranking is somewhat misleading. Detroit has played only eight games, while 14 other teams have played nine on the season. Looking a little deeper, we discover the Lions are giving up an average of 27.1 points per contest, sixth-worst in the NFL. Defensively, they have surrendered 25 touchdowns (16 passing/9 rushing) and rank 24th or lower in several other key defensive stats.

Woefully, in four of their last five games, Detroit allowed 32.5 points per contest, all losses. Their defense is trending in the wrong direction; for the Bears' struggling offense, that presents a chance to get back on the right track.

Ranked 25th in pass attempts (216), Bears' 25-year-old starting quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, is performing poorly this season. His passes have resulted in a league-low 5.6 yards per pass attempt, placing him 33rd in a league that has 32 NFL teams. These are dismal numbers for Mitch, but alas, let’s turn that frown upside down with some positive stats from the last two weeks.

Combining game production over the past two weeks, Trubisky has statistically improved his yards per pass attempt to 6.8, which is a shade under the NFL average of 6.9. During the same time period, the Lions pass defense watched teams rack up 8.4 yards per pass attempt. Even if you factor in the sacks Detroit’s defense accumulated during this span, it still averages out to a robust 7.9 yards, which is a full yard more than the NFL average. Helping to support the passing offense, running back David Montgomery averaged 4.3 yards per carry the last two weeks, exactly matching the league average.

The Bears should be able to apply pressure on a Lions defense that’s allowed 125.5 yards rushing per game and 4.2 yards per carry over the last two weeks.

The Bears’ defense and Detroit’s offense are primarily the reasons these teams have amassed only three wins each. Despite three home losses to one home win, the Bears statistically have made things difficult for visiting teams. Chicago, at home versus the run, is second in the NFL, allowing just 68.5 yards per game. The Bears are 10th in the league at home against the pass, limiting teams to a pedestrian 204 yards on average through the air. Part of the defensive success Chicago enjoys revolves around them blitzing 25.4 percent of the time, leading to 89 quarterback pressures, which is sixth in the league.

Chicago must generate and maintain pressure on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is having one of his better statistical years in his 11th season. Stafford is second in the NFL in passing touchdowns (19), fourth in passing yards (2,499), first in passing yards per game (312.4) and fifth in passer rating (106.0) — yet, his team has more losses than victories. If Stafford had a defense like the Bears', he’d be a front runner for league MVP. Even though the Lions' passing game is solid, their running game entering Week 10 is ranked 25th and is plagued with injuries at running back.

Both teams have positives they can hang their hats on as long as they commit to building a team unity around them. A key to teams turning their seasons around entails developing an identity and sticking to it. Looking back at the 2017 Chargers, they rode the wave of an opportunistic defense and +11 turnover margin to finish 9-7 after starting 3-5 that year. The 2018 Ravens were 4-5, then changed quarterbacks and their offensive system, and went on to win the AFC North division with a 10-6 record. Just as impressive were the 2018 Colts, who started 1-5 and finished 10-6 with a convincing postseason victory over divisional rival Houston. So, there’s a chance… but the clock is ticking.

If the Bears are going to answer the bell this weekend against the Lions , they must focus on:

• Aggressively attacking a porous Detroit run defense (which is allowing 145 rushing yards per game on the road)
• Keeping pressure on Matt Stafford (Bears are 4th in QB hurries at 14.1 percent)
• Scoring touchdowns inside the red zone, not settling for field goals (Bears are sixth-worst in NFL at 17.8 points/game)

Tick-tock, tick-tock...