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3 keys for Bears to beat Lions and final score prediction originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
How do you respond from an embarrassing loss like the Bears experienced against the Browns in Week 3? That’s what Matt Nagy and his team have tried to work through all week long. Nagy has taken input from his players and coaches to try to right the ship, and we’ll see how it plays out when the Lions come to Soldier Field this weekend. If those adjustments include these three things, the team will take a big step forward towards getting another win and advancing to 2-2 on the year.
ADJUST PROTECTION PLAN WHEN THINGS GO AWRY
This is low-hanging fruit, but it bears repeating because of how important it is for the team to get going offensively. Bill Lazor said the Bears had plays and concepts in place that could’ve helped mitigate the Browns pass rush in Week 3, the team just didn’t react adequately enough to make the changes. Each and every week the Bears will have some things in their gameplan that simply doesn’t work. That’s not a problem in and of itself, as it happens to every team. The problem is when adjustments aren’t made in-game. The entire offense needs to be flexible and ready to change when things don’t go well, or Week 4 could be another tough game.
THROW THE BALL DEEP
For whatever reason, the Bears have opted not to air it out very much, regardless of which quarterback is under center. According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Andy Dalton’s average intended air yards ranks dead last in the league, at a meager 4.2 yards. Justin Fields’ rate isn’t much higher. He’s tied for 23rd in the league (with Jalen Hurts) at 7.6 yards. Without the ability to even threaten deep, defenses can focus on taking away the run or the middle of the field, making yards on first and second down even harder to come by. The Bears threw the ball deep once last week, and it drew a pass interference penalty that set up a field goal. So even though it didn’t go for a completion, it still helped to put points on the board.
STAY COMMITTED TO THE RUNNING GAME
It’s hard to blame the Bears too much for only giving the ball to David Montgomery 10 times in Week 3, since absolutely nothing was working and it limited opportunities across the board. But in the second half, Montgomery only got three carries, which is not enough no matter how you slice it. It was a 10 point game halfway through the third quarter, so it’s not like the game was out of hand, forcing the Bears to throw the ball more, either. Case in point, during Thursday night’s game between the Bengals and Jaguars, Cincinnati found themselves down 14-0 at halftime. But they didn’t panic, and rushed the ball 15 times in the second half. Those rushes were essential in getting their offense back on track to win 24-21.
Over the first three games, Montgomery has looked like the most effective and reliable piece of the Bears offense, so it seems prudent to run the majority of the offense through him. A steady diet of carries should also open up a play-action game, which could take some pressure off Justin Fields too.
The Lions may be winless, but they have played better than their record indicates. Ultimately the Bears get the win because of their talented defense, but it’s close.
Bears: 17, Lions: 14
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