Lions Team Grades: Detroit Struggles Against Chicago At Home, Ekes Out Victory
By Michael Ferro
When Detroit headed down to New Orleans and easily handled the Saints, many took it as a good sign that the Lions would make short work of their NFC North rivals, the Chicago Bears, the following week. The return of veteran linebacker DeAndre Levy was also seen as a fortuitous sign. But something was off; either Detroit was underprepared or the Bears brought everything they had, because the Lions defense and quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled throughout the game.
Stafford injured his hand early in the match up, forcing him to wear a glove. A small detail, but it did noticeably slow the Lions' offense. While Chicago managed to fight back and keep it close throughout the match up, including a nail-biting last minute drive, the Lions did end up on top by a score of 20-17.
It is no secret that much of the Detroit offense relies solely upon the cool calculation and booming arm of quarterback Matthew Stafford. When Stafford was forced to wear a glove after a hand injury, the offense struggled mightily, including when the QB threw two interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter). Chicago knew they had a chance to shut down an explosive Detroit passing attack and pounced.
With Detroit still struggling in the running game, and Stafford sluggish, the Lions looked flabbergasted. The Bears had one of their best games on defense this season. The last time Stafford threw two interceptions was in the loss against the Bears in Week 4 of the season. But Stafford was able to redeem himself with just minutes left when he ran in his first touchdown of the season for seven yards to retake the lead for the Lions and secure a 20-17 win.
Detroit's defense is used to giving Matthew Stafford plenty of time to do his thing. While the Bears came on strong at first, the Lions seemed to find a somewhat effective balance before halftime. But, by the last quarter, a number of sloppy plays allowed the Bears to capitalize and take the lead.
When Detroit's defense had numerous opportunities to put the game away with a three point lead as the final minutes ticked off the clock, they repeatedly failed to take advantage as the Bears marched down the field. In fact, if Chicago's offense didn't commit two consecutive penalties to negate two straight big plays that would have put them in field goal range for a chance to tie, then Detroit might have walked away with a loss against one of the lowest-ranked teams in the NFL.
Special Teams: A
As always, kicker Matt Prater was on point, nailing two field goals of 29 and 52 yards (Prater is now six-for-six on the season in making field goals from 50+ yards). Kick returner Andre Roberts also returned two kickoffs for 49 yards in the game.
Perhaps Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell had a bit too much confidence heading into this game. By the end of the first quarter, Caldwell was digging deep into his playbook in an attempt to stump the surprising Chicago defense. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter also had trouble adjusting to Stafford's injury, complicated by the fact that the Lions have such a dismal running game.
Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had no response once Chicago's inexperienced quarterback Matt Barkley started to find his groove. Chicago completed a number of passes for major yardage and Barkley ended the game with 212 yards and a touchdown and no interceptions.
Up Next: Detroit heads to New Jersey to play the Giants on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 1 p.m. EST.
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