Bears vs. Detroit Lions on MNF: And the winner is...

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Bears vs. Detroit Lions on MNF: And the winner is...

The Bears and Detroit Lions dont like each other very much. No surprise there; nobody much likes the Lions and their sometimes miscreant ways. NFL officials didnt think much of the Lions last week when they flagged Detroit 17 times and walked off 16 penalties in the game against Philadelphia, won in OT by the Lions.

Its not like I have to bring out the George Halas pep talk to get them ready to play Detroit, coach Lovie Smith said.

Ready will be the key.

Offense ready for next step?

The Bears rank No. 2 in the NFL scoring 29.8 points per game. But that is with five defensive touchdowns in the last three games, without which the average is less than 23 per game.

The offense managed just one touchdown in each game last season vs. Detroit, and even those needed help.

In game two, Matt Fortes six-yard touchdown run came at the end of a drive that started after Julius Peppers forced a fumble that Brian Urlacher recovered and took to the Detroit 16.

The other 30 points in the game came from a Devin Hester punt return, TD interceptions by Charles Tillman and Major Wright, and three Robbie Gould field goals.

The Bears moved the ball reasonably well (359 yards) in the first game but stopped themselves with six false-start penalties.

Since the last time the Bears saw the Lions (in Soldier Field last November) they have muscled up the offensive line mauler Chilo Rachal at left guard, No. 1 pick Gabe Carimi back at right tackle after missing both 2011 games with a knee injury, and JMarcus Webb a long, long way from the false-start machine that the Lions exploited when the teams met in Detroit on a Monday night last Oct. 10.

They have muscled up at wide receiver Brandon Marshall with 35 catches, only two fewer than co-leaders Johnny Knox and Roy Williams had for all of 2011.

And they have powered up overall with Mike Tice as coordinator, with his commitment to running the ball to establish the threat of play action. Tice was at the core of turnaround changes in game planning the past two seasons and the offense right now is statistically ahead of where it was in nearly all key areas from where it was at the time of Jay Cutlers thumb injury last year.

Turning point

Typically it is at about this point of seasons with Cutler, and Tice, that the offense shifts into a bigger gear.

Offensively, I think since Ive been here, weve been learning new offenses pretty much each year and trying to grow with it, so it takes time for those things, Cutler said. Its not like you can just wake up one day and learn a new offense and its just going to click. It doesnt work.

It takes some time for everyone to get a feel for what were doing and know their assignments and experience things, and maybe theyve got to mess a couple things up before they really get it right.

With Green Bay and Minnesota winning on Sunday, the Bears remain the hunted in the NFC North, a division that would be a blown officials call (Green Bay at Seattle) of having three teams in the playoffs if they were starting today.

It should be like that in the division, and when everyone is playing good ball, you have to be ready each play, Smith said. There are a lot of stars for fans to watch in this game. And then to get a chance to play on Monday night. Theres just a lot of things. For us, having played a couple games on the road, were excited about coming back home this week.

And so

Heres how I saw this game and the season to this point back before it all started:

7. Detroit Lions (10-6) Mon., Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m.

Analysis: Character issues are unanswered with the Jim Schwartz Lions, who have talent and went OL with their top pick (T Reilly Reiff) to deal with Julius Peppers. It wont be enough with Detroits problems in the secondary.

Result: W (5-1)

Well, Reiff hasnt been able to unseat aging vet Jeff Backus at left tackle but thats a side story. The Detroit secondary has been helped by the return of safety Louis Delmas from knee surgery but has injury problems at cornerback.

The Lions survived against Philadelphia in part of Matthew Staffords passing and Calvin Johnsons receiving at the finish of a game in which the Eagles proved so inept that they fired their defensive coordinator after the game.

The Bears wont be firing their D-coordinator. They wont have reason to:

Bears 24 Lions 13

Blackhawks re-sign defenseman Ville Pokka to one-year deal

Blackhawks re-sign defenseman Ville Pokka to one-year deal

The Blackhawks signed Ville Pokka to a one-year contract on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old Pokka played in all 76 regular-season games for the Rockford IceHogs last season, recording six goals and 24 assists.

The Blackhawks’ defensive depth has already taken a hit this offseason, with Niklas Hjalmarsson traded to Arizona – Connor Murphy came here in the deal – and Trevor van Riemsdyk, selected by the Vegas Golden Knights, then traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. While the Blackhawks will probably explore free-agent options this offseason, Pokka could vie for an opportunity at training camp.

Are Bears better than Texans, Broncos, Dolphins and others? Pro Football Focus says yes

Are Bears better than Texans, Broncos, Dolphins and others? Pro Football Focus says yes

Pro Football Focus has more than its share of both supporters and detractors of how it goes about grading NFL players. They break down every snap for every player, and while there are general agreements on what's seen by naked, untrained eyes who don't put the time and investment into its system that PFF does, there are other evaluations that seem to come out of the blue. While there's occasional guesswork on a player's particular assignment on a given play within its scheme, those of us who've watched and studied nuances of the game, or those who've played it, can usually identify how many jobs were done correctly.

Tuesday, PFF released its rankings of all 32 NFL rosters but in essence focused on the quality of each team's starting lineup, listing the Bears — are you sitting down? — 18th in the league. That's ahead of the likes of the Ravens, Saints, Texans, Dolphins, a Jaguars franchise that's had tons of high draft picks in recent years, as well as the Broncos and Lions (whom they rank 28th). The top five are the Falcons, Patriots, Titans, Packers and Steelers (the Bears play three of those teams in September alone). Among other Bears opponents, they rank the Panthers 10th, Vikings 12th, Buccaneers 13th and Eagles 15th.

[BEARS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Their evaluation is based on each player's final score from last season, "elite" and "good" being the top two levels, followed by "average" and "below average" to "poor." The only Bear earning elite status was inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman. Another nine Bears finished with good grades: Jordan Howard, Zach Miller, Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Adrian Amos and Quintin Demps (who earned his grade in Houston).

Those earning average grades were Cam Meredith, Kendall Wright, Kyle Long, Charles Leno, Jr., Pernell McPhee and Prince Amukamara. Below average: Mike Glennon (in mop-up duty in Tampa Bay), Kevin White, Bobby Massie, Leonard Floyd and Jaye Howard. The only Bear earning a poor grade among projected starters was tight end Dion Sims (with Miami). The other potential flaw is that PFF lists Kyle Fuller (no grade) and Bryce Callahan (average) as starters when Marcus Cooper and Cre'Von LeBlanc likely have the inside track to start at cornerback and nickel back, respectively.

How did the Bears get to 18th, above three playoff teams and another that won the Super Bowl two years ago? Well, all of those other teams have more elite players at certain positions, but it's offset by a number of spots occupied by more players with poor or below average grades. The Broncos (25th) for instance, had four elite players, just another four falling under the good grade, but five players listed as poor.