Alright, that’s enough.
We’re getting back to business. There are 13 more weeks of football to be played, so pay attention.
The Lions played a good game last week, but it was full of holes. Even the most dominant win leaves room for improvement. While they were strong, the Lions were not quite dominant, no matter what I may say.
1. Keep Matt Forte Down
One of the most disappointing feature backs in football this year is Matt Forte.
Heralded as the Bears’ new star after a sensational rookie campaign, he has rushed for less than 200 yards total in three games this season and spearheads the league’s 28th-ranked rushing attack.
In their last two games, the Lions have been up against two very high-profile backs in Clinton Portis and Adrian Peterson. Peterson was held under 100 yards, Portis under 50.
If they can continue that kind of containment on the already-slumping Forte, it should force the Bears into some 3rd-and-long situations, where the Lions may be able to capitalize on some Cutler turnovers.
2. Keep Pressure Off Matt Stafford
Matt Stafford is flying high after his first NFL victory, which happens to also be the first for the Lions since he was a sophomore at Georgia.
So, what was the difference between the Washington game, as compared to New Orleans and Minnesota?
I’m not just talking about pocket pressure, though it’s important that he stay upright against a strong Bears' defensive line.
I’m talking about game pressure. Stafford played well because he was comfortable.
He played much of the game with a lead, which allowed him to calm down and not force the ball as much as he did in his first two starts. He had less 3rd-and-long situations to contend with, his running game backed him up, and never did the team have to put the ball in his hands to win it.
These factors combined allowed Stafford his strongest—and only turnover-free—start of the season so far. Perhaps it is also a sign of him maturing.
That game was a necessary confidence-builder for him, and he should be able to carry that momentum over to Soldier Field…as long as he doesn’t feel forced to do too much with the ball.
3. Continue to Target Bryant Johnson
Calvin Johnson has had a fairly quiet season thus far, compared to expectations. Granted, expectations were pretty lofty, but in three games, Calvin has yet to notch a 100-yard game.
Much of that is because he’s drawing all the coverage. The perception, when a team gameplans for the Lions, is that Calvin is the only threat. Everyone else in single coverage is okay, as long as everyone else covers Calvin.
In response, Stafford started targeting the other Johnson.
Bryant Johnson had a comeuppance against the Redskins, leading the team in receptions and yardage, including two of the biggest offensive plays of the game: catching the first touchdown pass of the game on a 21-yard lob, then drawing a pass interference call in the end zone for 47 yards.
If Stafford can continue to make defenses pay for leaving other receivers in single coverage, then some double coverage should lift from Calvin Johnson, which will open him up to make more plays.
4. Don’t Let Up
As well as the Lions played against the Redskins, it still ended up a close game that came down to the final play.
Well, after going up by 13 against the Redskins with five minutes to go, and shutting down the offense for most of the game, they let the Redskins sneak back in with a quick score to Santana Moss, then failed to hold onto the ball to run the rest of the clock out.
Consequently, what would have been the Redskins’ game-winning drive ended in Lions territory, a mere 30 yards from a 20th straight loss.
The Lions have been notorious this season for failing to play solid football for 60 minutes.
In week one, the Lions came out flat and allowed the New Orleans Saints an early double-digit lead, which they would keep for most of the game.
In week two, the Lions had a phenomenal game against the Vikings…in the first half. In the second, they looked like a different team, allowing 27 unanswered points.
Last Sunday, of course, the Redskins charged back with five minutes to go, and may have completed the comeback if they had an extra minute on the clock.
If the Lions are able to get ahead of the Bears, it will be imperative that they sustain their efforts.
The Lions’ secondary is average on their best day, and the Jay Cutler-Devin Hester connection has proven capable of putting up numbers in a hurry. They’ll want to make sure their lead is as comfortable as possible.
Of course, if they keep the pedal down, then there won’t be any concerns over a late comeback, will there?