Chicago is coming off a 10-6 victory over Baltimore on Sunday, while Detroit beat Cleveland 13-10.
Detroit coach Steve Mariucci’s decision to sit quarterback Joey Harrington and start Jeff Garcia proved to be the right one last week. Garcia went 22-of-34 for 210 yards and ran for a touchdown to lead the Lions to victory and gain revenge on his former team.
This week Garcia will look to perform better than Harrington did against the Bears earlier this season. Harrington was intercepted five times and sacked twice in an embarrassing 38-6 pounding by the Bears at Soldier Field on Sept. 18.
Garcia, who missed Detroit’s first five games with a broken left leg, will be up against one of the league’s stingiest defenses. Despite the weakness of the division, the Bears would like nothing more than to own first place at the midseason point.
“We’re trying to get respect,” Chicago coach Lovie Smith said. “The NFC North is talked about quite a bit (because of) the records, but I see it getting better and we’re leading the charge.”
Chicago can credit its tie atop the NFC North to its outstanding defense. The Bears held Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis to just 34 yards on 15 attempts on Sunday and have not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.
The Bears’ defense is allowing only 83.0 rushing yards per game this year.
Ranked third in the league for allowing just 260.2 yards of total offense per game this season, Chicago has held opponents to just over 11 points per contest.
“I think six games into our season you see the type of defense we are,” Smith said. “This is the position we want to be in, going up to Detroit in first place.”
The Lions look to take command of first place and put together a winning streak for the first time this season. Detroit has spent the last four weeks alternating between wins and losses.
If the Lions hope to contend with Chicago on Sunday, they may have to do a better job running the ball and defending against the rush. In the teams’ first meeting of the season, the Lions had only 29 yards rushing to Chicago’s 187.
Chicago’s Thomas Jones rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in that meeting. Jones will be seeking his sixth 100-yard rushing performance in his last eight games.
Detroit’s win over Cleveland on Sunday proved to be costly, as the Lions’ already depleted receiving corps took another blow when Kevin Johnson sustained a season-ending Achilles’ injury.
The Lions signed wide receiver Troy Edwards on Monday, but since Charles Rogers still has one week left on his drug suspension, Mariucci hopes Pro Bowl kick returner Eddie Drummond and Roy Williams return Sunday against the Bears.
As of now, Williams isn’t feeling confident.
“I’m not sure right now,” said Williams, who played much of last year with an ankle injury that required postseason surgery. “I’ve got a Grade 3 pull, which is the worst grade, and you just go out there and do what I do with a pull like that.”
Making matters worse, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers sprained the medial collateral ligament in his knee and is week-to-week, and cornerback Dre’ Bly will miss at least a month with a dislocated wrist. Bly leads the Lions in interceptions this season with four.
Mariucci will again rely on R.W. McQuarters to fill the void. McQuarters, who already stepped up to replace Drummond, knows the situations the rigors of an NFL season can present and feels ready if he’s called upon Sunday.
“When I came here, I knew that Dre’ and Fernando Bryant were the starting corners, and that Eddie was a Pro Bowl kick returner,” McQuarters said. “But in this league, you always know that you are one play away from being in the game.
“I’m ready, and I’m going to just keep trying to make plays.”
At home, the Lions have defeated the Bears in three consecutive games. Chicago is 0-2 on the road this year.