Week seven wraps up tonight with what should be an interesting game as the Lions take on the Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago.
When the Bears have the ball
For years Chicago had huge void in their offense because of subpar quality at the wide receiver position. This past offseason they traded for Brandon Marshall, reuniting him with quarterback Jay Cutler. Marshall creates mismatches that the Bears never had previously and because of his familiarity with Cutler there was no time lost while developing chemistry and getting on the same page. This allows the Bears to expand their offensive playbook and should open things up in the running game for Matt Forte and Michael Bush. The Lions have speed on defense but are not that good against the run.
Detroit is so thin at cornerback that they re-signed Alphonso Smith and also added Justin Miller; in the Philadelphia game backup safety Amari Spievey was pressed into duty as a nickel corner. Also last week safety Louis Delmas got back on the field after missing time with a knee injury, which noticeably helped Detroit. Last year the Lions almost strictly depended on pass pressure from their four man rush but this year they are more likely to count on linebackers or even safeties to blitz. The Bears have had issues with pass protection for some time so look for Detroit to get after Cutler.
When the Lions have the ball
The Bears have on of the NFL’s best defenses and have been very successful in forcing turnovers. The biggest reason for their improvement is because they are getting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks – and they are able to do it without having to blitz. Julius Peppers is getting better help than he did in the past. DT Henry Melton is playing well, causing havoc shooting gaps and collapsing the pocket; DE Corey Wooton is healthy, and first round draft pick DE Shea McClellin – a player many thought that the Patriots would target in last April’s draft – has worked out well thus far as a dynamic pass rusher.
In the secondary CB Tim Jennings has come out of nowhere and has been lights out; not only does he already have four interceptions but he has also created to other picks with deflections. Major Wright and Chris Conte have also been steady at safety.
The Bears are known for their two deep Cover Two defense. This works perfectly for containing or at least limiting Detroit’s primary offensive threat, Calvin Johnson. I’ll be curious to see if the Bears have CB Charles Tillman follow Megatron regardless of which side he is on since Tillman is taller than Jennings, or if they leave him on one side.
Detroit has made more of a commitment to run the ball than they did last year but Chicago has an excellent run defense. Interestingly they score more when they get away from that balanced approach and just throw the ball. The Lions have scored only 50 points in the first three quarters of their games this year, but have scored 73 points in the 4th quarter when they abandon the run and throw the ball more because they are playing from behind.
The Lions have been atrocious on special teams this year, allowing four return touchdowns over a two week span. Detroit improved that area against the Eagles last week, limiting Philadelphia while at the same time getting a 48-yard punt return of their own that led to a score. Tonight’s challenge could be daunting though as they face Devin Hester, who is the NFL’s all-time leader with eleven punts returned for a touchdown.
The Bears are coming off a bye week, plus one extra day off since this is MNF. NFL players are creatures of habit and there have been times when teams come off of a bye looking sleepy rather than well rested, rusty from the extra time off. The new CBA dictates extra time off for players when they do have a bye and limits the number of in-season padded practices so I would not be surprised if the Bears come out a bit sluggish.
With it being a national game the crowd should be all fueled up and pumped up for this division rivalry game. Cutler and the Bears have had to resort to asking the crowd to be quiet on offense in the past. It’s one of those things where it’s a natural tendency to cheer when your team is about to score on offense but I’m a bit surprised since Chicago fans have a reputation of being quite knowledgeable about sports (well, other than Steve Bartman) so I would think that they would have a better idea of when to be loud and when to be quiet. Last year when the Bears played Detroit in their dome they committed nine false start penalties; I wouldn’t expect that to happen again but it’s still something worth noting and watching for.
I expect the Bears to win but between the layoff and this being a division game (when rivals almost always play each other tough and keep it close) I’m inclined to shift from my previous stance and take the 6½ points and go with the Lions to cover; I’ll also go with the score to stay under 47½ points.
This Day In Patriots History
October 22, 1961:
The Patriots jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead and crushed the Buffalo Bills 52-21 at Nickerson Field. Babe Parilli passed the ball just 11 times yet threw for three touchdowns, all to Billy Lott, who ended up with 108 yards receiving and another 51 yards rushing. Larry Garron had an 85-yard touchdown run – the longest run from scrimmage in team history still to this day – and the Patriots defense shut down the Bills, forcing five turnovers and limiting Buffalo to 51 yards rushing while recording 7 sacks.
October 22, 1965:
Otis Smith was born in New Orleans; he played CB for the Pats in 1996 and again from 200-02. Otis had ten interceptions and five fumble recoveries during his time with the Pats, including a 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the 4th quarter to seal a playoff win over Jacksonville on January 12, 1997.
October 22, 1972:
Carl Garrett had 192 yards from scrimmage but the Patriots lose to the Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium.
October 22, 1978:
Patriots win their fifth game in a row in a nationally televised late afternoon game at Schaefer Stadium, 33-24 over Miami. The win puts the Pats in first place, one game ahead of the Dolphins in the AFC East. After a Garo Yepremian field goal tied the game in the 4th quarter the Pats took the lead on Horace Ivory‘s second touchdown run, a 23-yarder, and then sealed the victory when Richard Bishop sacked Bob Griese in the end zone for a safety. The Pats ran for 225 yards in this game, led by Ivory’s 113 yards rushing on just 15 carries.
October 22, 1989:
Stanley Morgan catches two touchdown passes (55 yards, 19 yards) from Steve Grogan and Irving Fryar has 102 yards receiving but Steve Young comes in relief of Joe Montana and rallies the 49ers in the 2nd half as San Francisco beats the Patriots 37-20. Ken Sims and Daryl Holmes both blocked SF field goal attempts for the Pats special teams unit.
October 22, 2000:
J.R. Redmond had 132 yards from scrimmage and Adam Vinatieri kicked three field goals but the Patriots lost to the Colts 30-23 at the RCA Dome. The Pats appeared to be headed for an upset over the heavily favored Colts, leading 23-14 heading into the 4th quarter but Edgerrin James scored twice in the final quarter for Indianapolis.
October 22, 2006:
Corey Dillon ran for two touchdowns and Tom Brady threw touchdown passes to Chad Jackson and Doug Gabriel as the New England Patriots shut down the Buffalo Bills 28-6 at The Ralph. The Pats defense had four sacks and forced four turnovers in this game while limiting the Bills to two Rian Lindell field goals.
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October 22, 1945:
Leslie West is born in New York City
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