Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears: Takeaways from Detroit's 21-19 Win
Ladies and gentlemen, the Detroit Lions hold first place in the NFC North all by themselves. Thanks to a 21-19 victory at Soldier Field, the Lions are now 6-3 while the Bears sit at 5-4. The Green Bay Packers lost to the Philadelphia Eagles to also fall to 5-4.
The Lions completed an exceedingly rare season sweep of Chicago, which gives Detroit the head-to-head tiebreaker in addition to the one-game lead in the standings.
Here are my initial takeaways from Detroit's important victory.
*All stats are courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise noted
These Lions Have Heart
Admit it, Lions fans, you were skeptical. You had every right to doubt this franchise could come up with this kind of victory.
I know I had my doubts. Heck, I picked the Bears to win. For once, I'm quite happy to be proven wrong.
These Lions proved a lot of folks wrong. This organization has perennially folded under pressure situations like this.
Not this time.
Beating the Bears in Chicago with a division lead on the line is a sure sign the Detroit Lions have turned a corner. They have demonstrated the gumption and fortitude to handle a crucial moment. That did not happen in 2011. It certainly didn't happen last year, when 4-4 morphed into 4-12.
It's time to believe in these Detroit Lions. This is the second win in a row that proves the legitimacy of the 2013 Lions.
Hidden Hero: Don Carey
Veteran defensive back Don Carey was a late fill-in for an injured Bill Bentley. Even though Carey is listed as a safety on the team's official depth chart, he found himself playing slot cornerback against Chicago.
Carey played very well in emergency relief. Without seeing the advanced passing numbers, I'm going to strongly presume Carey winds up with the best pass coverage grade for Detroit by Pro Football Focus.
He finished with just two solo tackles, but both prevented third-down conversions thanks to excellent form.
He's not going to get a lot of attention, but Don Carey deserves kudos for a yeoman performance against Chicago. It's a tremendous boon to have a reliable, versatile player like him in the secondary as the season progresses and the injuries mount.
Riding the Fairley Roller Coaster
The final Chicago drive of the game aptly encapsulates the NFL life of Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
On the second play of the drive, Fairley ruined a good play by the coverage with a completely asinine roughing penalty on Josh McCown. He threw the Bears quarterback to the turf well after the throw was gone.
The next play? Fairley recorded a sack on McCown as the quarterback tried to slide forward in the pocket.
And then there's the game-winner, which you can watch here courtesy of the Lions' official website.
Fairley continues to tantalize with the spectacular plays, like that enveloping destruction of Matt Forte on the two-point conversion. Yet for every great play, there is a knucklehead moment like the personal foul.
This is his NFL fate. Nick Fairley has the ability to turn a game one direction or the other. In this win, he luckily redeemed himself on the same drive.
The Run Defense Was Fantastic
On a day when Chicago needed to relieve pressure from a clearly hobbled Jay Cutler, the Detroit defense thoroughly snuffed out any rushing attack.
Chicago managed just 38 yards on 20 carries. Matt Forte accounted for 33 of those yards on 17 carries. In the last meeting, Forte bagged 95 yards on just 14 carries, including a 53-yard touchdown.
Two runs in particular stand out. On 4th-and-1 from the Detroit 27, reserve linebacker Rocky McIntosh crashed into the backfield and nailed Michael Bush for a short loss. That play from early in the second quarter extinguished a promising drive by the Bears.
Then there is Fairley's stuff of Forte on the deciding two-point conversion. When the Lions needed to come up with stops against the run, they delivered.
Run, Reggie, Run
The Bears matched Detroit's strong run defense in the first half.
Here is the Detroit rushing from the first half:
Now here is how they finished the game:
Reggie Bush in particular was a different runner in the second half. The blocking in front was better and deserves some credit, but Bush turned from a dancer into an attack dog. His transition from horizontal to vertical runner made a huge impact on the game.
Stafford to Johnson: The Best in Lions History
It was only a matter of time, and it happened in Chicago.
Calvin Johnson with his 62nd TD catch, tied for most in franchise history with Herman Moore.— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) November 10, 2013
That was after the first touchdown hookup. Johnson later broke the record with a 14-yard touchdown with 2:28 remaining.
Johnson and Matthew Stafford also broke the record for a passing tandem. The first touchdown broke a tie with the Scott Mitchell-to-Herman Moore connection from the 1990s.
Even though they got the records, it was not the best day for either Lion. Johnson had an ugly drop on the play before the second touchdown, while Stafford had some errant throws from awkward platforms. They will need to clean it up to win in Pittsburgh.
The Troubles Continue for Darius Slay
With the Lions already shorthanded at cornerback with Bentley out, they needed a strong performance from rookie Darius Slay. Instead, the second-round pick quickly played his way to the bench.
Chicago picking on Slay early. Two straight throws on him, two straight to Marshall, including the TD there. 7-0 Bears.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) November 10, 2013
Slay was sent to ride the pine at that point. He did return later, but the Bears quickly targeted and exploited him once again.
It's painfully obvious when watching Slay that he does not trust his own ability. He is tentative and passive, two very negative traits for playing in the NFL.
I still firmly believe better days are ahead for Slay, but those days sure seem far in the distance. At this point, I strongly support using Jonte Green ahead of Slay as the third outside cornerback.
The Red Zone Made the Difference
Cashing in on red-zone opportunities is a requisite for NFL success. In this game, Detroit thrived where Chicago flopped.
Both teams had four red-zone opportunities. Detroit scored touchdowns on three of those. Chicago netted just one touchdown to go with two short Robbie Gould field goals.
The DeAndre Levy end-zone interception (see above) of a pass tipped by Ndamukong Suh was a huge turning point in the game.
When Bears fans evaluate this game, their inability to convert red-zone opportunities into touchdowns should be a focus of their derision.
Detroit's defense played well in tight quarters, and it helped secure the victory.