The Detroit Lions have inflicted their share of injury to opponents and now are limping into a Game 16 with one starting defensive lineman on injured reserve, his replacement not able to practice and their best defensive back also not practicing at the end of a season in which he has played just seven games so far.
Defensive tackle and 2011 first-rounder Nick Fairley went on IR and his fill-in, Sammie Hill suffered a toe injury in Detroits loss to Atlanta. Safety Louis Delmas has battled a knee injury all season and cornerback Jacob Lacey was lost to IR with a knee injury in the Arizona game two weeks ago.
But the Bears arent especially concerned about who wont be there. For one thing, all five of the Lions who registered sacks of Jay Cutler in the Bears 13-7 win on Oct. 22 linemen Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch, and linebackers Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant are playing.
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A couple guys banged up up front but theyve still got Suh, still got the edge rushers, new corner out there, said quarterback Jay Cutler. But its the scheme. Theyre going to try to get a lot of pressure from the front four, bring a few guys and play coverage behind it. Nothing we havent seen and we wont be prepared for.
The 2012 problem
Cutler has played as well against Detroit as against any team in his career. His teams have been 6-2 against the Lions and he has thrown 11 touchdown passes vs. one interception and put up a rating of 100.9, vs. a career rating of 83.9.
But Cutler has yet to establish himself as a championship quarterback and Sunday is one of those situations. The Bears have totaled just 13 points in two of the last three Detroit games, and the 37 in the third, game two of 2011 was deceiving. The offense netted 216 yards, the defense scored twice on interceptions and Devin Hester took a punt return to the end zone.
The Bears have won eight of their last nine games against the Lions but the credit belonged to more than the offense.
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Indeed, part of the goal for the Bears offense on Sunday will be to play defense.
You want to flip the field, said coordinator Mike Tice. Theyre a very high-powered offense Detroit and we want to make sure we sustain drives.
We got back to doing pretty good in the red-zone again, so we want to get down in the red zone, because we had that stub-toe against Green Bay in the red-zone but over the last month or so, weve been pretty doggone good in the red-zone. So we want to continue that, so I told the guys this morning, Lets get in there more. And thatll be good, because we are pretty good in the red zone, actually.
The Lions have notoriety on defense Suh is a perennial top finisher in surveys of dirtiest in the NFL but the problems are more than reputation at this point.
In Detroits seven-game losing streak, the Lions have held no opponent to fewer than 24 points and have fallen to 29th in points allowed for the season (27.4).
The Bears have fallen hard in their last seven games but at least won two of the seven, the only two times (Minnesota, Arizona) they scored more than 17 points over that span.
The problem is that while the Bears rank ninth with 121.7 rushing yards per game, they have a No. 1 back (Matt Forte) dealing with an ankle injury and the No. 3 (Armando Allen) missing practice with a knee injury from the Arizona game.
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The Lions are 26th in rush yards allowed per attempt (4.5 per carry). The Bears were able to escape the first Detroit game with a 13-7 win in large part because they were able to rush for 171 yards and average 5.3 per carry, one of only five times this season they have topped 4.5 per carry.
The plan is to slow the Detroit pass rush with a running game marked by efficiency: four or more yards on first downs. The Bears struggled early in Arizona when they took and missed shots downfield early and faced too many second- and third-and-long situations. Against a Lions rush that sacked Cutler five times in the first game, the Bears want to control the tempo if not the bigger picture.
We cant control our own destiny, but we can control our half of it, which is winning a football game, Tice said. Thats what were intent on doing: going into Detroit and winning a football game.