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


The Bears (3-7) visit the Detroit Lions (7-2) Sunday at Ford Field. Here are three things that should increase their chances of winning the game:

(1) Pressure quarterback Jared Goff.

The eighth-year pro has led the Lions to the top of the NFC North standings by directing an explosive, balanced offense that ranks second in the NFL in total yards, fourth in rushing and fourth in passing. Goff is completing a career high 68.4 percent of his passes for 2,504 yards with 14 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 99.1 passer rating that ranks eighth in the NFL. Since the start of the 2022 season, his 43-to-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio is the best in the league.

In four games against the Bears since joining the Lions in 2021, Goff has thrown for 961 yards with eight TDs, no interceptions and a 118.6 passer rating while being sacked eight times. Making Goff uncomfortable in the pocket will be crucial for the Bears, who have only recorded 13 sacks but bolstered their pass rush with the Oct. 31 acquisition of defensive end Montez Sweat in a trade with the Commanders.

The fifth-year pro fueled an improved pass rush in the Bears' last game. In a 16-13 win over the Panthers Nov. 9 at Soldier Field, Sweat generated eight pressures and three quarterback hits, helping create opportunities for fellow linemen Yannick Ngakoue, Justin Jones and Rasheem Green to record sacks.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus likened the addition of Sweat to when the Colts signed free agent defensive tackle DeForest Buckner in 2020 when Eberflus was Indianapolis' defensive coordinator.

"Very similar," Eberflus said. "That's a premier player, an All-Pro player and a guy who can affect the quarterback. You can really see the effect, the 'Tez Factor' that I called it the other day. We had a lot of good pressures last week, a lot of good hits on the quarterback, a few sacks. That's got to continue. It really helped our coverage. You can see that. A lot of the incomplete passes were definitely created by that pressure."

The Bears defense takes a big step up in class against the Lions Sunday. Detroit is the NFL's only team that boasts four players with at least 400 yards from scrimmage and four scrimmage touchdowns in running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and tight end Sam LaPorta.

"Certainly, this offense is a good offense," Eberflus said. "It's got a lot of skill, and they distribute the ball around to different players and make you defend it horizontally and vertically. It's going to be a big challenge for us."

The Bears were back on the practice fields at Halas Hall to continue their preparation for Sunday's divisional battle with the Lions in Detroit.

(2) Justin Fields reverts to the form he displayed before hurting his thumb.

The third-year quarterback is set to return to action after missing the last four games with a dislocated right thumb he sustained Oct. 15 in a loss to the Vikings. The Bears are hoping that Fields picks up where he left off before getting hurt, when he posted a 120.0 passer rating in Weeks 4-6 that was tops in the NFL. In back-to-back starts against the Broncos and Commanders, he threw for 617 yards and eight touchdowns.

"Any time a guy performs at a high level, that's what your mark is," Eberflus said. "You want to always shoot for that."

Fields has developed a special rapport with top receiver DJ Moore, who leads the Bears with 52 receptions, 793 yards and five touchdowns. Fields' 146.8 passer rating when targeting Moore is the highest among all duos in the NFL with at least 35 targets.

Tight end Cole Kmet also has emerged as a significant threat in the passing game, catching 46 passes for 419 yards and five TDs. Only the Ravens' Mark Andrews—who sustained a season-ending ankle injury Thursday night in a win over the Bengals—has more TD receptions among NFL tight ends with six.

The Bears no doubt will again rely on a rushing attack that ranks fifth in the NFL and has produced at least 133 yards in six of the last seven games. Running back Khalil Herbert will be back Sunday after missing the last five games with an ankle injury. D'Onta Foreman, who excelled in Herbert's place, has rushed for at least 80 yards in three of the last four games. The veteran is listed as questionable for Sunday's game with an ankle injury.

Limiting mistakes on offense will be key against a Detroit defense that has allowed a league-low 37 explosive plays (runs of 10+ yards and passes of 20+ yards). The Bears are 3-0 this season when they don't commit a turnover and 0-7 when they do. They rank fifth in the NFL in rushing, fifth in red-zone touchdown percentage and seventh in third-down efficiency, but they're 19th in points per game in part because their 18 turnovers are tied for the second most in the league.

(3) Contain the Lions running game.

The marquee matchup in the NFC North clash, at least on paper, features the Bears' No. 2-ranked run defense versus the Lions' No. 4-ranked rushing attack.

Chicago's run defense was 18th after Week 4 but has skyrocketed up the rankings by allowing 29, 46, 39, 54, 87 and 43 yards on the ground in its last six contests. In Detroit, the unit will face a dynamic running back tandem that has combined to rush for 977 yards and 11 TDs on 196 carries in Montgomery (106-501-7) and Gibbs (90-476-4).

Montgomery, who signed with the Lions this year after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Bears, leads all NFL rushers with an average of 83.5 yards per game.

"We feel like we know him pretty well," said Bears linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi. "Big, strong, hits the hole really fast, runs with great pad level, really good after contact, keeps his legs moving."

Gibbs, meanwhile, tops all NFL running backs since Week 7 with 427 yards from scrimmage, including three straight outings with at least 100 yards.

"He's unique," Borgonzi said. "He reminds me a little bit of [Alvin] Kamara in New Orleans … where he's really good out of the backfield catching the ball. [It's] an interesting dynamic with Montgomery, who is more of the power back and Gibbs is more of the outside runner but dynamic in the open field, can make people miss but also finishes runs."

Doing a better job against the run has been part of an across-the-board improvement by the defense that has helped the Bears go 3-3 in their last six games after an 0-4 start:

Table inside Article
First 4 games Last 6 games
Record 0-4 3-3
Points Allowed/Game 34.3 19.7
Total Yards Allowed/Game 383.3 284.8
Rushing Yards Allowed/Game 115.5 49.7
Passing Yards Allowed/Game 267.8 235.2
Third Down Conversion Rate 58.9% 35.5%

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