Through eight games of the 2013 season the Bears have three receivers with more than 35 catches: Brandon Marshall (53), Alshon Jeffery (38) and Martellus Bennett. That doesn’t include Matt Forte with 40.
Last season they had only one receiver (Marshall) with as many as 29 for the year. In 2010 Johnny Knox led the Bears with 51 in the supposed Mike Martz air show.
The point of the 2013 production is the level of difficulty the Chicago offense has developed for a defense like the Lions’. Detroit ranks 31st in sacks per pass play, meaning for all of their No. 1’s up front, they don’t disrupt a lot of pass plays.
The Lions allow 273 passing yards per game, which ranks them 26th in the NFL. What stands out is the consistency with which the Lions are being thrown on.
They allowed only Andy Dalton and the Bengals (364) to throw for more than 300 yards on them, and only Tony Romo (206) has thrown for fewer than the 225 that Minnesota’s Christian Ponder passed for on opening day.
And the numbers are arguably indicative of more than just teams needing to throw to catch up. The Bears were down big early and Jay Cutler threw for 296 net yards against the Lions. It was the only full game in which Cutler completed fewer than 63 percent of his passes and his three interceptions were one short of as many as he’s thrown in all the other games combined.
“It’s hard to watch [game tape],” Cutler said. “It was hard to watch after the fact. It’s even harder to watch now because you look at it and you’re like it was just silly stuff that I was doing, that we were doing out there.
“So we can limit the turnovers. They’ve got a hot hand on offense. Defense is playing well. It’s going to be a tough matchup. They’re coming off a bye, so they’ve had ample opportunity to prepare for us and we’re a little bit banged up. We’ve just got to get healthy, got to have a good day of practice tomorrow because it’s gonna be a challenge.”
The Green Bay game was a case study in effective holistic play by Bears receivers, what coaches are looking for vs. the Lions. The Bears’ ability to run the ball on the final 18-play drive involved near-flawless blocking on the edges by Bennett, Jeffery and Marshall.
“[Green Bay] was a solid team effort as opposed to just an up-front, and the receivers waiting for the next pass,” Aaron Kromer said. “They don’t do that here. They really have prided themselves in being good blockers. I think that made a big difference in that drive.”
What to watch for:
Detroit’s secondary is regarded as the weak link in the defense. But linebacker DeAndre Levy is exceptional in coverage (four interceptions) and safeties Louis Delmas and Glover Quin each have two.
And it is a physical back-seven, with the Bears expecting Lions defenders to be up on Chicago receivers to take away quick-release throws by Cutler.
“I think they’re physical with their corners when they’re up on us,” coach Marc Trestman said. “Offensively we’ve got our work cut out for us.”