Joniak: Keys To Bears-Lions

Jeff Joniak
November 27, 2019 - 6:19 pm
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(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Chicago Bears travel to Detroit for a Thanksgiving Day game. Here are Jeff Joniak's "Keys to Game," strategies that Chicago should use to defeat the Lions:

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Offense

--At some point a quick start should be attainable by the Bears. They are last in the league in first-quarter points and have scored a league-low one touchdown in 11 opening drives.

--Detroit scores points in the first quarter. The Lions are tied for third with Minnesota with a 40.7% scoring rate on first-quarter drives.

--Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field is not the day to work out of a hole. The Lions have lost seven of eight and are trying to establish a new way of doing business. I would not expect them to lay down. To that point, the Lions have led in every game this season.

--Jamaal Williams (Packers), Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Josh Jacobs (Raiders) have all hit 100 yards on the defense. In seven of their first eight games, the Lions gave up at least 112 yards rushing. They have held their last three opponents, including the Bears, to under 90 yards. The Bears need a clean running game with chain-moving production. Don’t let the Lions start to feel confident about closing the door to the run game.

--Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller will be counted on to move the chains and stretch the field. They are coming off their best games respectively and on the short turnaround, Mitchell Trubisky should go back to what worked against the Giants and what worked against man coverage against the Lions. Taylor Gabriel and Ben Braunecker are both out with concussions, so it gives a more prominent role for rookie tight end Jesper Horsted.

Defense

--With three games on tape, the Bears now know Lions quarterback Jeff Driskel. They didn’t in week 10, when he surprised with his mobility and his ability to move the Lions' offense. He threw three interceptions last week in Washington, and the Bears hope to turn Driskel over in the same fashion.

--Stopping the run will again be a primary focus. The Lions are getting terrific production from first-year running back Bo Scarbrough. The 6’1”, 235-pound blaster back is on the Bears' radar, given his physicality and ability to run behind his pads.

--It is going to be a full day at the office for the secondary. At home, receiver Marvin Jones Jr. tears it up. In his last nine games at Ford Field, Jones has 10 touchdowns, including six this season.

--His running mate, Kenny Golladay of St. Rita high school, was quieted by the Bears at Soldier Field, but on his 15 receptions of 20 yards or more, Golladay is averaging 34.2 yards per catch. The coverage and tackling must be on point.

Special teams

--For some reason, opposing kickers struggle at Ford Field. Since 2018, they have missed nine field goals for a conversion rate of just 62.5%. Eddy Pineiro must equal or out-kick veteran Lions great Matt Prater for the Bears to win this game.

--Prater is 25-of-32 in the last 13 games, or 78% at Ford Field. Ideal conditions await, but Pineiro can’t fall into the same trap as opposing kickers and fizzle in Ford.  

--Without Sherrick McManis (groin), the Bears are down one of their coverage stars. Cordarrelle Patterson becomes the focal point of the Lions' blocking scheme. He is having an outstanding season on coverage, and his fine work needs to continue today against a dangerous returner in Jamal Agnew.

--Patrick O’Donnell has punted very well in Ford Field over the years, and again that comes with ideal playing conditions. In five games here, he has 25 punts averaging 46.3 yards a kick. He has dropped 13 of those punts inside the Lions’ 20 with less than 100 yards on returns. His performance is critical in maintaining field position leverage against a Lions offense that is number one in starting field position.

--Tarik Cohen! A big punt return that turns into offensive points for Trubisky and the boys could prove to be a meaningful moment for a unit that needs a little push to find enviable field position.

Intangibles

--One thing you can guarantee year after year is that the Lions draw well on Thanksgiving Day. It is their holiday tradition. The crowd will be amped up at least early, and the Bears have to take that crowd out of the game. Again, the Lions have led in every game this season. They have lost seven games by an average of six points. Get ready to play a full 60 minutes.

--For the Bears, getting back to .500 for the first time since Week 7 would be a mental-health boost for the final month, a gauntlet of potentially playoff-eligible opponents.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.