Bears-Lions: And the winner is...

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Bears-Lions: And the winner is...

The 2013-14 Bears lost four straight games to the Detroit Lions, the first time that level of futility has occurred since the woeful times of the late ‘60s-early ‘70s. The Lions obliterated the Denver Broncos 45-10 in John Fox’s first year as Broncos head coach.

None of that particularly matters approaching Sunday when the Bears go to Ford Field to face the Lions.

“We don’t spend a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirror,” Fox said. “We’re looking out the windshield. That’ll determine what we do Sunday.”

Other things will indeed determine outcomes.

[MORE BEARS: Week 6 in-foe - A Motown mess]

Winning two straight games restored some balance to a Bears team that had lost its two previous games by 25 (Arizona) and 26 (Seattle) points. The fact that the wins involved fourth-quarter surges against teams that are a combined 3-7 really isn’t relevant; only winning matters and the Bears, despite injury levels approaching epic levels, managed to do that.

If there is any concern it lies in the fact that the Bears have scored no more than 23 points in any of their five games this year. That cannot continue if the Bears are entertaining thoughts of stacking more wins.

The Bears went through a stretch like that last season and were 2-3 then, too. They went six games of no more than 23 points in 2011 (the six after the Jay Cutler injury) and went 1-5 then; they were 3-3 over six 23-or-less games in 2010 before righting themselves for the run to the NFC Championship game. A seven-game 23-or-less stretch in 2009 ended 1-6.

[MORE BEARS: Bears waiting on Alshon Jeffery to provide downfield threat]

Not that 23 is any sort of points tipping point, like 17 is for points allowed; over the last 10 years the Bears are 39-12 when holding an opponent to 17 or fewer points.

All of which cascades into Bears-Lions.

Detroit has failed to score more than 17 points in any of its last four games, all since blowing a 21-10 halftime lead at San Diego in Week 1. The Bears’ defense has allowed just four touchdowns over the past three games (none rushing), and Detroit has scored more than two offensive touchdowns just once this year.

More to the overall were the indications of quitting last Sunday against Arizona, and that was at home. Coach Jim Caldwell began benching players, including quarterback Matthew Stafford after a third interception.

The variable this Sunday is how the Lions respond to both the adversity of losing and also the Caldwell message that no one is immune to benching. The Lions may come out with extreme fire, which then involves the Bears weathering an early attempt to blow them out, and matching that can be an early decision point.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans]

But the guess here is that it will be the Bears coming out with smash-mouth intentions and also the ability to carry that through, both on offense and defense. The Lions are 32nd in the league rushing, both in yardage and per-attempt.

The Bears, however, are understandably wary of wounded Lions.

“I still see all the talent and the explosiveness that they've had the past few years,” said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “Ever since [Stafford] has been there, particularly with that receiving group that he's got in [Calvin] Johnson and [Golden] Tate.

“They just have struggled a little bit, they've played some really good defenses and it just hasn't worked out for them. But they're still very capable of winning a lot of games during the season.”

Just not this one. “View from the Moon” predicted the Bears to be 2-3 after five games this season and that they would lose at Detroit. Not now.

Prediction: Bears 20, Lions 16

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.