Another week of real football is almost upon us, so let’s see what a virtual version of Sunday has to say about the Lions chances this week in the Windy City.
After Madden NFL 17 correctly predicted a Packers victory the previous week—and nearly the exact score of Sunday’s actual game, 29-24—the virtual Lions made the trip from Green Bay to Chicago to take on a beaten and broken Bears squad. Without their best linebacker, one of their best defensive linemen and their starting running back, the Bears are in a similar situation to that of the Lions in that sense. However, Chicago is also without Jay Cutler, their starting quarterback, and it doesn’t get much worse than that for a football team—unless you’re New England. This game played pretty similarly to Week 3’s actual matchup with the Packers: the Bears jumped out to a big lead early, there was a lot of offense—as many expect this Sunday—but with a few big defensive plays sprinkled in.
The Game: First half
When the Lions received the opening kickoff, it didn’t take long for the offense to stall and give the ball to Chicago for a chance to run their offense. It was the Bears who first got on the scoreboard with a field goal by
Robbie Gould Connor Barth from 31 yards out.
After Chicago scored, Detroit followed suit with a field goal of their own on the very next drive, tying the game up at 3-3 after Matt Prater knocked it in from 26 yards away.
When the second quarter started, the Bears offense came to life. On the second play of the quarter, Brian Hoyer threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery on third-and-8:
Hoyer throws a pass to Jeffery that he takes to the house for a Chicago lead. #PS4share pic.twitter.com/W2siAzRDv3— Ryan (@Ryan_POD) October 1, 2016
Once the Bears kicked the ball back to the Lions, Stafford gained a quick first down after a couple of throws, making their way to midfield in a hurry. On second-and-13 from their own 48-yard line, Stafford made his first mistake of the afternoon: an interception to Bryce Callahan that he returned for 23 yards.
A familiar face would get the Bears into the end zone for their second touchdown of the game in an all-too familiar fashion when Joique Bell plowed his way past the goal line for a 3-yard touchdown run. Connor Barth would tack on the extra point to give the Bears a 17-3 lead with a little over half of the second quarter remaining.
Things didn’t look good for the Lions offense after Theo Riddick continued to generate no spark running the ball out of the backfield, and Stafford taking a sack on second down to set up a third-and-19 from their own 19-yard line. Stafford would take a three-step drop from shotgun, look right, then find Golden Tate just past the sticks... but Tate wasn’t done there:
Tate shakes a couple of defenders after the catch to pick up 68 yards. #Lions #PS4share pic.twitter.com/htZ08ukmTS— Ryan (@Ryan_POD) October 1, 2016
From there, however, the Lions offense would fail to move the ball forward again and have to settle for a 45-yard field goal for Matt Prater.
With the Lions trailing by 11 points, the Bears went three-and-out for the first time all game, but the Lions would do the same after getting the ball handed back to them. On fourth down though, Sam Martin proved he was worth each and every penny, pinning the Bears on their own 1-yard line. From there, the Lions defensive line, led by Wallace Gilberry, handled the rest:
When it looked like the Lions were starting to build some momentum on both sides of the ball, things seemingly went flat all of a sudden when Detroit decided to throw the ball on second-and-1... and then again on third-and-1.
On the Bears’ final drive before the end of the half, quarterback Brian Hoyer marched the team down the field in just over a minute and a half, completing all six of his pass attempts for 67 yards. With his sixth pass, Hoyer connected with Jeffery for the duo’s second touchdown pass-and-catch of the half. At the half, Chicago led Detroit by a score of 24-8.
Chicago received the ball in the second half and Jordan Howard ripped off a huge 26-yard run. From there, however, Detroit would force the Bears to punt the ball. Then, after a few successful plays that lead to first downs, the Lions would punt the ball back to the Bears.
Nothing of note happened for nearly the entire third quarter until the Bears extended their lead by another three points when Connor Barth hit a 39-yard field goal with just under four minutes to go in the penultimate quarter. Then, on Detroit’s next drive, retribution: Chicago was flagged for a 48-yard penalty for defensive pass-interference. I promise, this isn’t Jeremy Reisman’s fan-fiction. Madden is growing ever more sentient by the installment. After that play, Theo Riddick would juke and power his way into the end zone for six and Matt Prater would make it a seven-point drive.
Before the end of the third quarter, Chicago would continue imposing its will on the ground, with Jordan Howard breaking of his biggest run of the game: a 50-yard scamper that put the Bears into the red zone and well within striking distance. Howard would finish with 190 yards on just 25 carries. Chicago would go to the air, but Hoyer couldn’t move the Bears any further, and Connor Barth kicked his third field goal of the game, this time good from 27 yards.
The fourth quarter
While the Lions were moving the ball early in the fourth quarter, the Bears were playing a brand of “bend, but don’t break” defense with a 15 point lead. Detroit’s offensive play calling wasn’t doing any favors for itself, dialing up three straight pass plays on second-and-one, third-and-one and then fourth-and-one—which resulted in a 15-yard pass to Eric Ebron and a first down. They kept Detroit from getting into the end zone, but the Lions were able to cut the lead back to 12 with just over nine minutes left in the game.
The Bears took over on offense with the goal of eating up clock, but a relatively quick three-and-out kept Detroit’s hope alive. On fourth down, special teams ace Johnson Bademosi blocked Chicago’s punt and the ball was recovered by the Lions inside the Bears’ 10-yard line. From there, Detroit couldn’t find the end zone after three plays and settled for yet another field goal to cut the lead to nine, which, yet again, left Detroit down two possessions with only six and a half minutes in regulation.
On the ensuing kickoff, Deonte Thompson returned it for a touchdown, seemingly ending any hopes at a Lions comeback, but there was a holding call that brought the play all the way back to the Bears’ own 35-yard line. On their first play from scrimmage, Jordan Howard broke outside, but was chased down by a persistent Tavon Wilson who knocked the ball loose when he tackled him from behind. And the Lions recovered!
Down by nine with less than six minutes remaining, the Lions would have to move quickly to give themselves another chance at a possession to take the lead, so Stafford leaned on Eric Ebron to get the offense down the field. A reception for 9 yards and 2 yards moved the chains, and then a big pass play to Andre Roberts gained another 22 yards. Once inside the red zone, Stafford went back to his tight end, hooking up with Ebron to score on an 11-yard pass on an out route. The lead was now cut to two with just over three minutes left.
Each team had kept all of their timeouts, so Chicago’s main objective was to run the ball for yards and, more importantly, clock. A 9-yard rush on first down by Howard was a good start, and then a 2-yard gain gave them a fresh set of downs as the clock came to a stop at the two-minute warning. If the Lions wanted a chance to win the game, they would have to get three stops on the next set of downs. After limiting the Bears to 2 yard gains on first and second down, the Bears ran a play-action pass on third down, fooling no one as Devin Taylor came off the edge to hurry a bad throw from Hoyer. After punting the ball back to the Lions, the offense was faced with driving 80 yards in 1:38 and one timeout.
A heavy dose of... Andre Roberts drove the team down the field. Catches for 8 yards, 17 yards and 13 yards moved the team near midfield. A reception from newcomer Aaron Dobson picked up 15 yards and another first down. The Lions were within Prater’s field goal range when Matthew Stafford added the finishing touches to his stat line:
#Stafford2Jones for the lead in Chicago! #Lions lead the #Bears, 35-30. #PS4share pic.twitter.com/c5kUthN476— Ryan (@Ryan_POD) October 1, 2016
That sluggo, tho...
A 35-30 lead marked the first time Detroit was out in front during the game, but there was still a little less than a minute left for Chicago, who still had a timeout remaining, to try for the end zone. A couple of plays to Zach Miller and Jordan Howard had the Bears moving towards Lions’ territory, but Brian Hoyer made one very costly mistake in the direction of Quandre Diggs:
Diggs puts it on ice! #Lions win 35-30 in Chicago! #PS4share pic.twitter.com/cYYLZX0egC— Ryan (@Ryan_POD) October 1, 2016
A couple of knees later and Detroit was celebrating on virtual Soldier Field.
Lions Madden sim record: 3-1
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