In a late October clash on Monday Night Football, the Chicago Bears didn't impress anyone with a sloppy performance which included plenty signs of troubling offensive inefficiency to come. The Detroit Lions also didn't impress with four turnovers, three of which came via fumble. These same turnover mistakes, much like Chicago's offensive woes, would also become commonplace for Detroit in the coming weeks. Any one of these problems getting reversed could have made the difference between either team winning or losing, making this final match up of the season a battle of cleaning up old errors.
Whoever does that better will finish the season on a high note. Here's some other things to watch this week, as the Lions and Bears renew their rivalry for the final time for yet another NFL season.
Bears' Offensive Difference Maker: Jay Cutler, QB. Against the Lions, Cutler wasn't outstanding, tossing only one touchdown pass on a woeful 16-31, 150 yard night passing the ball. Last week, A 12-26, 146 yard game against Arizona wasn't spectacular either. That was rough performance when much more was needed against a Lions' defense which had been performing badly. This time around, Cutler must play much better in order to secure a very important win for the Bears. Detroit's secondary hasn't been playing well, and Brandon Marshall must feast upon a great opportunity. Cutler was also dropped for five sacks, meaning he has to do a better job of getting the ball out quick and eliminating the Lions' defensive line.
Bears' Defensive Difference Maker: Julius Peppers, DE. The Bears' beastly defensive end didn't have his usually dominating game in October, only registering one tackle and one sack. This time, with other difference makers now missing for Chicago, Peppers has to come up with a bigger performance to terrorize Matthew Stafford off the edge. Against the Cardinals alone, Peppers accounted for three sacks and five tackles, a much more consistent statistical performance for him. A similar effort Sunday will send the Lions into their dismal offseason on a painful note.
Bears' Major Problem In Game One: Offensive flow. Quite simply, Chicago didn't have any the first time around, allowing Detroit's beleaguered defense to get off the field at will and even make a few impact plays on the road. This time, the Bears have to execute more consistently running and passing the ball. There has to be much more balance and flow, and they must keep Detroit's defense on their heels with quick passes and big plays. The time is now for the Bears' offense to take over a game, and Detroit's sloppy defense should be ripe for the picking.
Bears' Major Strength In Game One: Forcing turnovers. Four turnovers were far too many for the Lions, including one major fumble in the red zone by Joique Bell. Detroit had a hand in their own mistakes, but also credit the Bears for being very opportunistic and making things happen. The Lions have been just as sloppy in recent weeks, especially at the quarterback position, meaning Chicago could feast on Detroit turnovers once more. The Bears need to carry their opportunism over from game one to this week. If they're able to, they could be primed for yet another important victory in this series.
Intangibles: The rivalry. That's about the only thing the Lions have going for them at this point as far as excitement, as a dismal 4-11 season has left everyone frustrated. The Bears will be motivated to play for their playoff lives, but the Lions have literally nothing left to play for. Beating a division rival and ruining their playoff hopes in the process is about all Detroit's got to fall back on to close this season. Regardless of what happens Sunday afternoon, it will become a long three month grind towards free agency and then the 2013 draft.
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