Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
Here are some expanded thoughts on the 40-32 victory over the Bears, a win which puts the Lions in first place after a quarter of the season.
1. The third down defense is incredibly impressive, leading the league at 21.3%. A big reason why is that the team is playing very strong defense on first and second down. Chicago went 1-for-13 on third down, and very few of those were third and short. Here are the Bears’ third down distances in the first three quarters: 9, 8, 15, 21, 4, 5, 5, 18, 10. They failed on all of those. Forcing teams into 3rd and long greatly reduces the options of the opposing offense. It also allows the formidable defensive line to pin the ears back and get after the quarterback. The 21% is unsustainable long-term, but keeping teams in more difficult conversion situations is not.
2. Darius Slay looked a lot better in extended action. At the minimum, he was better than Rashean Mathis was in this game before the veteran got hurt. Mathis was on the field for just 9 snaps but managed to miss two tackles and get beat for two completions. Slay consistently tackled well and showed better field awareness. Even on the Jeffery touchdown, Slay was in very good position in coverage; Jeffery made an outstanding catch that showed his superior strength. The ensuing two-point conversion was Slay’s worst play of the day.
Brandon Marshall is a top receiver for a reason, and he beat Slay on a couple of plays. But the kid stayed in the picture and brought him down right after the catch. I was encouraged by Slay’s game.
3. I was shocked that Ryan Broyles played 41 snaps. In my mind I thought he maybe played a third of that total. Given how awful the Bears safeties were–they made Ricardo Silva look like Ed Reed–Broyles should have had a big day. Instead he saw one throw his way. One target against that defense, on a day when the Bears focused a lot of resources on Calvin Johnson, is awful. I haven’t watched the All-22 yet, but I’m very curious as to why this happened. I suspect it was more about Broyles not being open more than Stafford not looking for him. He must see at least five targets in Green Bay.
4. Really strong game from the reserves on special teams. John Wendling deserves credit for forcing a bad punt, and the rush actually altered how Chicago lined up in punt protection. That’s impact. Tahir Whitehead and Don Carey were both rocking people in coverage. It was the best Whitehead has looked in his career. The coverage units were very good in bottling up Devin Hester, staying disciplined in their lanes and hitting people HARD.
Rocky McIntosh was the exception. He got flagged for the horse collar tackle on Hester. I know, I know–it wasn’t a legit call. But in real time it absolutely looked like a horse collar and I’m not going to get upset over an official throwing the flag there. I’ve officiated games and I would have flagged it. But what really bugs me on McIntosh is that the man he was assigned to help block made the tackle on Spurlock three different times. If Rocky has no place in the base defense, and that’s apparent, and he’s not effective on special teams, which is also apparent, why is he on the roster?
5. On the Bears:
–Fans are ripping Cutler, and rightly so. The telegraphed INT to Delmas, where everyone in the state of Michigan knew Cutler was going to try and pick on Slay on his first play, was a terrible throw. He bounced some throws, missed a couple of easy open targets, and clearly let the line pressure get to him. Even so, he led a furious comeback with poised urgency. He’s never as good or as bad as Bears fans make him out to be.
–Really impressed with Matt Forte. It’s hard to fathom a back running that upright and still being so elusive. Loved his vision on several runs, and the jets on the long TD run.
–I saw and heard a lot of smack from Bears fans about how Kyle Long was going to take care of Suh. I suspect we won’t hear that in the lead-up to the next game. Welcome to the NFL, rookie.
–Chris Conte played one of the worst games I’ve ever seen from a safety. I saw that he was only credited with one missed tackle, but it’s hard to miss a tackle when you’re woefully out of position to make it. I had him for 6 missed tackling opportunities and five blown coverages.
–They really missed Henry Melton. I saw Nate Collins move Rob Sims backwards twice all day. Larry Warford dominated Stephen Paea, whose idea of a pass rush is to try a heads-down bull rush with a right arm rip every time. Peppers was fantastic given that context. I thought Wootton played pretty well too; he certainly owned Joique Bell.
–I called Shea McClellin a bust in the making back when they drafted him, and it seems like the Bears are learning it the hard way. I don’t use this word lightly, but McClellin is a “soft” pass rusher. Hit him in the mouth and he’s not coming back for more. When you’re afraid to attack Corey Hillard, you’ve got a problem.
–I friggin’ love Lance Briggs. I think he’s been the best player on the Bears defense since 2006 and one of the best linebackers in the league every year. But this was not a pretty game for Briggs. I thought he looked a half-count slow to react to the ball on a couple of throws to Pettigrew. The 2011 Lance Briggs picks at least one of those off, certainly breaks them up.
–I had never really paid attention to Isiah Frey before, but I came away impressed. He looked capable.