Life couldn’t be more disappointing for Detroit Lions fans right now. A devastating 13-7 loss to the Chicago Bears (5-1) at Soldier Field on Monday Night drops the Lions to 2-4 and puts them in very tough spot. They now trail every team in the NFC North by at least a game and a half. The Bears are firmly in control control of the North with the Vikings and Packers nipping at their heels. It will take a hot streak in the next four games for the Lions to get back in the mix.
Other than giving up the first 59-yard scoring drive and allowing the Bears to get out of the shadow of their own goal post four times, the defense did a good job. They held quarterback Jay Cutler to 150 yards passing, especially after the big hit defensive end Ndamukong Suh laid on him, sacking him five times and recording six quarterback hits. With the exception of a big 39-yard run by Matt Forte on the first drive, they bottled up Chicago’s rushing attack, with Forte averaging only 3.0 ypc the rest of the game. In the 4th quarter, the run defense was exceptional as usual.
After an early 3rd-quarter punt was muffed punt by linebacker Stefan Logan to set Chicago up with a short field, cornerbacks Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith came up big, foiling three Cutler pass attempts in the red zone and keeping the Lions in the game.
Detroit ran the ball efficiently (99 yards on 18 carries, 5.5 ypc). They were simply unable to protect the football, as both Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell each fumbled it away in the red zone.
Special teams coverage was excellent, holding ace kick returner Devin Hester to one return for five yards, while punter Nick Harris put several good punts out of bounds. Defensive end Lawrence Jackson also blocked a Robbie Gould field goal attempt after a long 2nd quarter drive that started at Chicago’s own 2-yard line.
Just as he had in Week 10 of 2011, cornerback Charles Tillman owned wide receiver Calvin Johnson, holding him to three receptions on 11 targets for 34 yards. The big difference between MNF 2011 and MNF 2012 was that last year, Johnson caught a touchdown pass on 3rd down of the first drive for an early 7-0 lead. This year he dropped it.
Tight ends Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew were nonexistent in this game, while wide receivers Titus Young and rookie Ryan Broyles were invisible until the 4th quarter. Now that veteran Nate Burleson is out for the year with a broken leg, it will be up to the young wide receivers to turn things around for Detroit, since Johnson will continue to be blanketed by defensive backs.
The offense turned the ball over three times in the red zone. They went three-and-out five times in the first half alone and recorded another drive with only one 1st down. The passing game was out of synch – quarterback Matthew Stafford was inaccurate and the receivers dropped balls.
Leshoure fumbled late in the 2nd quarterback fighting for an extra yard. He needs to learn to go down against a team that excels at punching the ball out. Had it not been for this mistake, the Lions would likely have gone to the locker room down 10-3 at worst. Instead, they were shut out in the first half.
Then in the 3rd quarter, Bell fumbled trying to extend the ball over the goal line. Had he not made this dumb move, the Lions would have been back in the game down 13-7.
The third turnover interception was a result of great coverage by the Bears and good pressure by Peppers on 4th down. Stafford had to throw a desperation throw to stay in the game so the fault goes to the Oline and “weapons” for this interception. Also, without the previous redzone fumbles or Logan fumble, a field goal could have been an option on the 4th down. But when it rains it pours.
Comparison to MNF 2011
How the Lions performed last year compared to this year.
- Chicago scored 13 offensive points both games.
- Forte ran well in both games.
- Hester was bottled up both games.
- Detroit committed fewer penalties in 2012.
- Johnson dropped a big wide-open touchdown in 2012 but caught it in 2011.
- Decent holes were there but neither Leshoure nor Bell were fast enough to break them like Jahvid Best did.
- In 2011 Detroit scored 10 points on two red-zone attempts; in 2012 they scored only a meaningless touchdown in four trips to the red zone.
It’s do or die for Detroit. A record of 2-4 knocks them out of this division but not out of contention for a Wild Card berth. Detroit must win the next two games against the Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field and against the lowly Jaguars in Jacksonville to get back to .500. Then it’s time for Detroit to man up with two big divisional games at Minnesota and Green Bay, both of whom are playing very well. If the Lions fail to win either of these games, they they will have to beat the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving Day. If Detroit is worse than 6-5 on Thanksgiving they are toast. But right now they need to take this season one game at a time. A tough Seattle secondary and running back Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch await.