The Detroit Lions defense has been their weakest side of the ball all season. Week 9 featured their best performance yet, however, limiting the Packers to just nine points. The majority of that success came through success in shutting down a weak receiving corps. However, during several turning points in the game, the defense allowed 38-year-old Aaron Rodgers to find scrambling lanes to keep the Packers alive. Seeing how the Packers were able to capitalize on that, expect the Chicago Bears to aim to do the same on Sunday with the younger, faster, more agile Justin Fields.
Bold prediction of the week: Lions limit Justin Fields to less than 150 yards passing
This outcome would be great for the Lions on paper, but it would likely come at the expense of getting torn apart on the ground. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I foresee things playing out Sunday.
Justin Fields failed to eclipse the 150-yard passing mark in the first three games of the season. Since then, he has done so in every game except for the most recent one against the Miami Dolphins. That was far from an unproductive day for Fields, however, as he rushed for an NFL single-game record 178 yards against Miami.
Fields has emerged over the past month as a much more comfortable passer in the Chicago Bears offense, forcing defenses to respect his abilities downfield. That has opened up rushing lanes for him underneath, making his legs even more of a weapon. That’s bad news for the Lions, who have struggled against mobile quarterbacks under this regime. The Lions opened the season by giving up 90 rushing yards to Jalen Hurts, by far Hurts’ best performance on the ground this year. Fields is arguably an even better rusher than Hurts.
While the Lions may game plan for Fields’ scrambling ability, the defense has shown time and time again that they lack the agility at the second level to corral mobile quarterbacks. The alternative of transitioning to a contain scheme against Fields gives him extra time in the pocket, so it’s a lose-lose situation. Game planning against a quarterback starts with defending the pass, even if you give special attention to the run. That will give Fields the opportunities to leverage his legs, and the Bears offense will operate primarily through the ground game. It may not be a repeat of Fields’ rushing performance against Miami, but it will be enough that he doesn’t have to lean on the pass against the Lions Sunday, leading to a deceptively good stat sheet for the Lions defense.