For…well, forever, I guess…it’s been about the Packers.
They’re the “BMR.” The Bears’ Main Rival. And that’s highly unlikely to change.
But I’m thinking the charter franchise’s second-oldest rivalry ramps up in the next couple of years and gets close. The Bears and Lions are in similar places, looking to prove something to Green Bay and those who believe the Packers will reign in the NFC North as long as Aaron Rodgers is there.
They have been rare recent participants in the playoffs despite having a certain level of talent that some think should get them there more frequently. Their offenses each have elite receivers, and the quarterbacks throwing to them are generally regarded in the league’s middle of the pack, needing to prove something more on a bigger stage before opinions change.
Now, we have what should be several years of trench warfare to look forward to between the Bears offense and the Lions defense. Detroit happens to think they’re on the verge of having a line as dominant as that of the 1985 Bears, and they've certainly invested enough through the draft. Sure enough, Ndamukong Suh (2nd overall in 2010) and Nick Fairley (13th overall in 2011) – if they remain healthy – can form a formidable defensive tackle duo. Then they used this spring’s fifth pick on defensive End Ziggy Ansah – still “green” but projected to be an outstanding speed edge rusher.
The Lions are under the impression the Bears specifically drafted Kyle Long as an “answer” to Suh, and while they wound up matching up often in a spirited battle Sunday in Detroit, fact of the matter is the Bears needed to build their offensive line to protect Jay Cutler and block for Matt Forte versus any opponent.
It was as unstable and porous the last couple of seasons against Detroit as it was versus anybody. So while the drafting of Long/Mills and the signing of Bushrod/Slauson would certainly help against the Lions, it’s another example of how much the Motowners think of themselves.
Then throw in Sunday’s postgame quotes after the Lions beat the Bears for just the second time in the last 11 meetings.
Head Case (er, Coach) Jim Schwartz: “I can’t believe we didn’t get about a hundred holding penalties against them.”
Suh: “Every single play in this game there was some sort of holding. The great players learn how to play through it.”
Long spent very little time last week discussing the impending matchup with Suh. He tipped the proverbial cap to him afterwards. It’ll probably be a while before the kid provides any bulletin board material for Suh, if ever. And down the road, there’s always the possibility he can be switched to tackle.
[RELATED: Was the Cutler debacle inevitable?]
But I’m already looking forward to how Aaron Kromer’s group responds to the November 10 rematch, outdoors, on the chewed-up, beaten-up grass, with the first encounter under their belts, not to mention five other games between now and then. Hopefully everyone stays healthy in between. And now there’s the assumption one of the real “good” guys – Israel Idonije – tipped the Lions’ O-Line off on how his ex- defensive line sets up and gets off the ball in certain formations. Bears defensive line coach Mike Phair is one of the holdovers from the time Idonije played here.
Each has tough tests in the aftermath of Sunday’s Lions win at Ford Field. They go to Green Bay, where the Packers are coming off a bye week and undoubtedly stewing over their 1-2 start. It’s where the Lions haven’t won since 1991. Suh was four years old. As “great” as they are, will they have better luck at Lambeau than they did, say, in Arizona two weeks ago?
And any shot Kromer had to divulge the Saints’ defensive system won’t help much after his former team hired Rob Ryan to coordinate. But even though the Saints went into Monday night’s game rising from the worst defense in the NFL a year ago to higher rankings than the Lions (and top 10) before this week, they probably don’t flap their lips and beat their chests as much as Detroit does.