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4 things to watch in Bears-Lions game


The Bears (5-6) will look to snap a five-game losing streak Sunday when they host the Detroit Lions (4-7) at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:

(1) Will the Bears defense rebound from its uncharacteristically poor performance in last Sunday night's loss to the Packers?

After yielding only one or two touchdowns in nine of the first 10 games this season, the normally stingy Bears defense allowed five TDs in Green Bay, including Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes on the Packers' first three possessions to cap drives of 75, 75 and 80 yards. The Bears also permitted a season-high 182 yards rushing.

The abysmal performance has provided a jolt of motivation for the defense heading into Sunday's game against the Lions.

"We hold ourselves to a standard," said safety Eddie Jackson. "We've got to play to our standard week-in and week-out. It's tough, especially going against a team like Green Bay. It's a huge rivalry. We know what it means to Chicago. We know what it means to the organization. So for us to go out there and play the type of game we did, it was embarrassing. So right now we're just feeding off that. We know what type of team, what type of players we have, especially on the defensive side of the ball. So we know what we need to go out there and do this week."

The defense will face a Lions offense that ranks 22nd in the NFL in points and is tied for 20th in total yards. After throwing 17 touchdown passes in Detroit's first nine games, quarterback Matthew Stafford has been limited to one TD pass while being sacked nine times in back-to-back losses to the Panthers and Texans.

The Bears defense could receive a major boost with the return of tackle Akiem Hicks, who missed the Packers game with a hamstring injury. Hicks was limited in practice Thursday and Friday after sitting out Wednesday and is listed as questionable on the injury report.

(2) Will the Bears offense build on some of the strides it made in Green Bay?

With quarterback Mitchell Trubisky making his first start in nine weeks and a reconfigured line, the Bears offense finally showed some signs of improvement in the first half against the Packers. David Montgomery's career-long 57-yard run set up a field goal. Trubisky completed passes of 20 and 16 yards to Allen Robinson II before throwing a costly interception. And the Bears ended the half with a 14-play, 87-yard touchdown drive that picked up nine first downs.

In Montgomery's return after missing one game with a concussion, he rushed for a season-high 103 yards on 11 carries. Coaches were also pleased with how the new-look line performed and hope that the unit will play even better against the Lions. Cody Whitehair moved from center to left guard, Sam Mustipher started at center, Alex Bars opened at right guard and Germain Ifedi slid over from right guard to right tackle. The only starter who remained in his regular position was left tackle Charles Leno Jr.

"I did really feel, as hard as that loss was, some of the positives that was one," coach Matt Nagy said of the line. "I felt like there was some consistency throughout the game in regards to a clean pocket. Are there times where the pocket got collapsed? Yeah. Were there some things that went wrong in run fits? Yeah. But that's normal across the league every single week, every Sunday. So I thought for our situation right now, I really feel good about the guys that we have out there. I thought that they're growing by each and every play in practice, and there's just a little sense of unity right now."

(3) Will Trubisky eliminate (or at least reduce) the costly turnovers he committed against the Packers?

The few positive steps the offense took in Green Bay were overshadowed by three back-breaking turnovers by Trubisky. The Bears quarterback threw two interceptions—the first into double coverage and the second into triple coverage—and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

As he prepares to make his second straight start Sunday, Trubisky understands that he must do a much better job of avoiding turnovers. "The main thing is taking care of the football," the fourth-year pro said this week. "It's easy to say, a little bit harder to do … It's a common theme with quarterbacks; you have a better chance of winning when you take care of the football. So it's very obvious to say; you've just got to go out there and do it."

Trubisky has excelled versus Detroit and hopes to continue that trend Sunday. In winning his last four starts against the Lions, he has passed for 12 touchdowns—three in each game—and only one interception. In this year's season opener at Ford Field, Trubisky threw three TD passes in the fourth quarter to rally the Bears from a 23-6 deficit to a stunning 27-23 win.

Trubisky and the Bears will face a Lions defense that ranks 31st in the NFL in points (29.8 per game) and 29th in total yards (396.2 per game).

(4) How will the Bears respond to being challenged by Nagy to "wake up?"

Nagy didn't mince words during his media session Monday, describing the Bears' performance against the Packers as "flat-out embarrassing" and "ridiculous." "Every freaking coach on the staff, every player, better wake up and start understanding where we're at," Nagy said. "Have some personal pride. Have a freaking sense of urgency. Know where we're at. Have some pride into who we're playing for and why we do this and then go find a way to win as a team. That's my challenge to every single person in that building this week."

It certainly would behoove the Bears to accept that challenge by playing with emotion and energy Sunday. They're in jeopardy of losing six straight games and slipping even further out of playoff contention. On the other hand, a win would snap their skid, improve their record to 6-6 and put them in position to make a run at a wildcard berth, with three of their final four games against teams currently with losing records: the Texans (4-7), Vikings (5-6) and Jaguars (1-10).

Trubisky was among those who appreciated Nagy's fiery message, saying: "I think we received it very well. It's good that coach says that, but at the same time, as a player, it kind of goes without saying that that should [always] be the mindset. If you're not coming in here with a chip on your shoulder, something is wrong. If you have a sense of pride and you're a competitor, if you want to go out there and win—which I know guys on this team do—then it's not even an issue."

When the Bears take on the Lions Sunday at Soldier Field, some of the players and coaches will be rocking special footwear for the team's My Cause My Cleats game. Take an exclusive look at the spikes that will be worn to support charitable organizations of each person's choice.

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