This post is sponsored by Comcast's NFL RedZone Channel.
As mentioned last week, every Wednesday I am going to take a look at how the Lions did in the red zone during the last game, analyzing both the offense and defense. This week I am going back to the Bears game, where the Lions were perfect offensively and not as great on the defensive side of the ball (you can partially blame the offense and special teams for some of their struggles).
Before I get into the specifics of what happened, first I want to break down what exactly red zone efficiency is. According to NFL.com's stats, a successful trip to the red zone ends with a touchdown and nothing else. While I understand why that is the case, scoring points at all seems like it should be counted as a successful trip to the red zone. Obviously for a defense the best-case scenario is to force a turnover or come up with a stop on fourth down, but most of the time a stop results in a field goal. I do think it is important to take note of whether a touchdown or field goal was scored, but overall red zone efficiency, in my view, is putting points on the board (or keeping points off the board, in the defense's case).
Lions - 4 scores on 4 chances (3 touchdowns, 1 field goal)
The Lions ended up in the red zone on both of their first two drives of the game. The first time they entered the red zone was thanks to a penalty on Chicago, which put the Lions on the 12-yard line. Matthew Stafford found Bryant Johnson on a slant pass to move the ball inside the 5. Jerome Felton then tried to pound the ball into the end zone, but he was stopped a yard short. Kevin Smith was able to score on the next play, though. Fast forward to their next drive, and a big pass to Calvin Johnson put the Lions on the 14-yard line. After two incompletions, Matthew Stafford found Will Heller in the end zone for a touchdown.
Near the end of the first half is when the Lions next entered the red zone. This time around it took a third-down conversion to put them in position to score, which is exactly what happened when Kevin Smith took it into the end zone from 3 yards out. Smith may have struggled during this game, but he was great down by the goal line.
The only other time the Lions were in the red zone was in the fourth quarter. Detroit moved the ball all the way down to the 6-yard line, and then Matthew Stafford was sacked and injured, leading to a Jason Hanson field goal.
Bears - 5 scores on 5 chances (4 touchdowns, 1 field goal)
Matt Forte's big run for 61 yards looked like it was going to set up a quick touchdown, but Louis Delmas chased him down at the 5, which could have been a huge play had the defense come up with a stop. It sort of looked like that might happen after Forte was stuffed and Jay Cutler threw an incompletion, but on third down Cutler made a play by diving into the end zone for a touchdown.
Later on in the game the Bears started a couple drives close to or in the red zone thanks to turnovers and special teams. For example, the Bears' next trip inside the 20 came after only one play (when Cutler found Earl Bennett for a 25-yard gain). The Bears were quickly on the 10, and Cutler hit a wide open Kellen Davis for a touchdown two plays later. The Bears' very next drive started at the Lions' 8 thanks to Stafford's interception. The defense did make some plays to hold the Bears to fourth down on the 2, but an offside penalty on the field goal led to Chicago deciding to go for it. Just like the last touchdown, Cutler found an open target in the end zone, this time Greg Olsen, on a play-action/bootleg type of play.
The next time Chicago reached the red zone was again thanks to a turnover. Once again their drive started inside the 20, putting the defense in a very bad position. This time the defense did come up with a stop, though, as Cutler stumbled right after the snap on 3rd and goal from the 1 and fumbled as he was getting up. That led to a loss of 3 and a field goal on fourth down.
The one other trip to the red zone for Chicago was after this game was basically already over. Garrett Wolfe ran the ball three times in the red zone, with the last one going for a 2-yard touchdown.
The offense was very productive inside the red zone, which was nice to see. In the past the Lions struggled anytime they got down by the goal line, but they scored touchdowns on all but one red zone trip during this game.
The defense made Chicago work to score inside the red zone, and really I'm not too upset with how things went considering how short of a field the Bears had to work with at times. Twice they started drives inside the red zone, which is about all that needs to be said about the field position game and who won that.