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Keys to the Game

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Keys to the Game: 3 things that will help Bears beat Lions

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The Bears (4-8) host the Detroit Lions (9-3) Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are three things that should increase their chances of winning the game:

(1) Continue to play stout defense and force turnovers.

A resurgent Bears defense has made major strides in key areas since October, most notably in stopping the run, generating takeaways and pressuring the quarterback.

A run defense that ranked 18th in the NFL after Week 4 has ascended all the way to No. 1 will be challenged Sunday by the Lions' dynamic 1-2 punch of veteran David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs, who combined for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in a 31-26 win over the Bears Nov. 19 in Detroit.

The defense registered three interceptions of Jared Goff in that contest and has seven in its last two contests after picking off four against the Vikings' Joshua Dobbs. It was an uncharacteristic performance by Goff, who has 11 outings with at least two touchdown passes and no interceptions since 2022, the most by an NFL quarterback.

The Bears will face one of the NFL's most explosive and balanced offenses Sunday; the Lions rank sixth in the league in scoring, second in total yards, fourth in rushing and fourth in passing. Detroit is averaging 30.6 points in its last five games, including wins of 41-38 over the Chargers and 33-28 over the Saints in its last two road contests.

Goff's top targets are receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who leads the Lions with 84 receptions for 1,042 yards and six touchdowns; and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, who has 64 catches for 679 yards and six TDs, tied for the most among NFL tight ends.

The Bears defense has improved considerably on third downs but struggled getting off the field in the first meeting with the Lions, allowing a season-worst 72.7% third-down conversion rate (8 of 11). A better performance in that key aspect of the game Sunday will enhance the Bears' chances of avenging their Nov. 19 loss at Ford Field.

The Bears were back on the practice fields at Halas Hall to continue their preparation for Sunday's NFC North battle with the Lions at Soldier Field.

(2) Score touchdowns instead of field goals.

Kicker Cairo Santos earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Month honors for November in part for making four field goals in each of the last two games versus the Lions and Vikings. But it would have been much better for the Bears had he been kicking extra points instead of field goals.

In Detroit, the Bears scored on their first four possessions of the second half to take a 26-14 lead. But three of those drives ended with field goals, enabling the Lions to stay in the game and eventually rally to win.

Eight days later, Santos' fourth field goal, a 30-yarder with :10 remaining, lifted the Bears to a 12-10 Monday night win over the Vikings in Minnesota. It was the first time the Bears won a game without scoring a touchdown since 1993, and it came in a contest in which their defense generated four takeaways.

In their last two games, the Bears have advanced inside the red zone on only four of 21 possessions, settling for three field goals and scoring one touchdown.

"It's about, 'How do we generate explosive plays?'" said coach Matt Eberflus. "You score touchdowns by getting the explosives. We all know that. But how do we do that in the running game? How do we create advantageous positions for the offense through motions, formationally, to create those advantages, those angles that we want to have so we can pop those runs. And in the passing game, we're going to have to take more shots downfield to create those explosive plays. Those things are there. We just have to take advantage of it."

The Bears no doubt will rely on Justin Fields to generate those plays. Fields has rushed for 104, 132 and 147 yards in his last three games against the Lions and has posted a 108.5 passer rating with nine touchdowns and two interceptions since Week 4.

A record number of Bears players, coaches and staff sported special footwear for the team's My Cause My Cleats game Dec. 10th against the Lions. Take an exclusive look at the custom spikes, which were created to support a charitable organization of each person's choice, as well as some of the players posting with their cleats.

(3) Finish strong.

Three weeks ago in Detroit, the Bears outplayed the NFC North leaders for three-and-a-half quarters on their home turf before the Lions scored 17 points over the game's final 2:59 in rallying for a comeback victory.

The Bears rebounded a week later, finishing strong to come from behind to beat the Vikings after Minnesota scored a go-ahead touchdown with 5:54 to play.

Tight end Cole Kmet called the comeback win "a good step for us."

"I think if we can just kind of carry what we did the first 56 minutes of the game against Detroit the first time and finish it out like we did against the Vikings this last week, we'll be in pretty good shape," he said.

While pleased with the victory, Kmet wants to see strong finishes again and again.

"We've got to be able to do it consistently if we want to be a team that can vie for the playoffs and win playoff games," he said. "We've got to show that we can do it on a consistent basis before we can say it's a change."

In the first meeting, the Lions rallied with touchdown drives of 75 and 71 yards that took just 1:16 and 2:04 off the clock. If faced with a similar situation Sunday, linebacker T.J. Edwards said that the defense needs to be able "to create a negative play or one of us [has] to kind of get them off their rhythm."

"It's all stuff we looked at and made some adjustments too," Edwards said. "We're excited, but it's a really good football team and we've got to be at our best. It's going to be a good challenge, for sure."

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