Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions delivered a fast paced, ugly at times yet still beautiful stress test to their fans Sunday afternoon. When the marathon race finally ended, Detroit had wrapped up a 40-32 victory, but only by the skin of their teeth. Just another usual weekend when two teams from the NFC North do tense battle.
Despite the Bears landing several decent punches early, Chicago would suddenly be on the ropes following one bad quarter and a dizzying series of events which left them trailing 30-10. Jay Cutler made mistakes, the Lions' offense kicked things into high gear and hope was lost by halftime. With 19 points in the second half, Chicago hung tough, but Cutler made one too many mistakes, allowing Detroit to escape with a win. The Hunt Report recaps a significant victory which made the Lions 2-0 against their divisional competition.
This Game, The Lions Did Better to Capitalize On Opponent Mistakes. The outcome of this game started and ended there. Four turnovers by Jay Cutler led to 17 Detroit points, which ended up deciding the game in the end. Overall, though Detroit settled for field goals early (which figured given Chicago's excellent red zone defense) they still did well to put points on the board. That's something the team hadn't done early in games which cost them.
Is Reggie Bush Good In The Lions' Offense Or What? Amazingly, Bush outdid his production from his last home game, collecting 136 total yards before halftime with another electrifying touchdown. His number on the ground would swell to 139 by the end of the day, and in total, Bush delivered a 173 yard performance against one of the NFL's stingiest, hardest hitting defenses. Without Nate Burleson, someone had to step up and Bush was the guy, giving the Lions' offense much needed teeth. More than that, he opens everything up for everybody else while still being able to create offense on his own. That's a valuable football player, especially for a team like Detroit, who has long struggled on the ground. Not so anymore.
Detroit's Third Down Defense Remains Ferocious. The Bears were an ugly 0-5 in the first half on third down, then 0-10 early in the second. It took until garbage time for Chicago to finally move the sticks against the Lions' tough defense, and the Bears finished a woeful 1-13. No wonder their offense bogged down so often. From the Lions' perspective, the beat goes on. In total, opponents are only 10-47 against Detroit this season on third down, which is a remarkable stat for the defense, and certainly helps explain their recent success.
New Jay Cutler Looked A Lot Like The Old Jay Cutler. Though playing much more control in 2013, Cutler looked to revert back to his old self on the road in Detroit. There were sacks (three), interceptions (three) and fumbles (one for a touchdown). Besides that, Cutler struggled to look comfortable throwing on the run, and was hit hard by Detroit's defensive line when pressure broke through. When flushed from the pocket, Cutler couldn't throw on target. He made bad reads under pressure and seemed to be rattled by the Lions and the environment. Certainly, a slight sign of regression.
This Season, The NFC North Might Go Through Detroit And Chicago. Take I-94 straight through from the Motor City and stop in the Windy City and the path to the 2013 NFC North crown might be created. While the Green Bay Packers still remain in the discussion, should the Bears and Lions continue to play others as well as they played each other, that will set up a fight to the finish for the divisional crown between the two teams. Early in the year, the Packers have looked mistake prone offensively. Against either one of these defenses, that could be bad news, considering both look feisty early in the year.
How About A Hand For Brandon Pettigrew? (This Time, Literally). Finally, Pettigrew, who has certainly seen his share of ire from the fans recently given his inconsistent hands, turned things into high gear on Sunday, snagging seven passes for 54 yards. This was just the type of bounce back performance that the tight end needed on the heels of his limited role in Washington. Without Burleson, it was nice to see Pettigrew and Kris Durham (three catches for 58 yards) step up and make some plays. The Bears chose to leave Pettigrew alone, and to his credit, Pettigrew made them pay.
Lions? In addition to Bush, Pettigrew and Durham, Ndamukong Suh stepped up with a huge game, collecting two sacks, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. It was perhaps his most dominant game start to finish. Nick Fairley had a nice scoop and score touchdown, and Stephen Tulloch had a monster game with 14 tackles and a sack.
Lambs? Though Michael Spurlock delivered a huge play on a punt return, he made numerous mistakes in the kick return game. After making one catch, Tony Scheffler dropped a pass and was never seen again. Detroit needs more out of Scheffler. Matthew Stafford, though on pace for another record breaking season (and perhaps career) didn't have the accuracy from the get-go today. The Lions were lucky to survive that.
Stat(s) Of The Day: 3, the amount of Detroit penalties and number of quarterback sacks by the Lions. Two stats of the day today. First, for all those who say the Lions cannot be disciplined, how about the team only collecting 3 penalties for 25 yards in a big game? The Lions didn't beat themselves Sunday, playing a clean game with controlled emotion and passion. Secondly, in a game where much was depending on the defensive line, Detroit's won the battle, sacking Cutler three times, hitting him six times and defending 11 of his passes. Chicago, conversely, only got one sack on Stafford and three hits. Domination.
What About The Five Things? Coming into this battle for first, we said it was important to watch Reggie Bush. Safe to say that was correct, given his huge impact. Helping Bush was the fact that Henry Melton was gone, as Chicago's defense was gashed up the middle and clearly missed their impact defensive tackle. With three interceptions, the Lions' secondary held up the best despite getting dinged up. Mistakes were a push at five turnovers a piece, but the Bears' made the critical ones, including allowing a defensive touchdown. Finally, without Burleson, Bush Pettigrew and Durham stepped up, helping the Lions' offense out.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions don't have time to rest, as they'll head to Lambeau Field, home of their latest elongated losing streak. Detroit takes on the Green Bay Packers next Sunday at 1 p.m. on Fox.
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