Lions vs. Bears: 3 film observations on Chicago and how Detroit can use them to win in Week 4

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The 0-3 Detroit Lions head to Chicago in Week 4 to try and break into the win column. The 1-2 Bears offer some legit potential for Dan Campbell’s Lions to go and notch that first victory of the 2021 season.

I reviewed the Bears’ last two games, with a special emphasis on their Week 3 humiliation at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, to see where the Lions might have some advantages. And even the most pessimistic Lions fan will find some legit paths to victory for Detroit in this matchup, based on how the Bears have played and are currently trending.

Here are a few areas of emphasis for Campbell and the Lions to focus upon for the Week 4 matchup with the Bears in Chicago.

It's a D'Andre Swift kind of game more than Jamaal Williams

The Lions feature a 1-2 punch at running back with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. It’s similar to what the Browns presented to Chicago in Week 3 with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. And based on how those two talented backs fared and how the Bears handled them, the Lions might want to roll with more Swift and less Williams in this one.

Hunt tore apart the Bears defense with his balance through contact, ability to win in space and break tackles. He managed 81 yards on just 10 carries. Chubb had a decent day (84 yards on 22 carries), but his more physical style was easier for the Bears to attack, especially when they forced him wide.

This fantastic Hunt run is an example of a play Swift can make happen for Detroit:

Hunt also presented a major threat as a receiver, catching six passes for 74 yards against Chicago. His ability to run legit routes out of the backfield stressed the Bears’ middle-of-field defense.

Chicago’s defense did a pretty solid job at containing another physical style of runner in Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon in Week 2. When Mixon ran sideways, it was effectively over. That’s not where Williams wins for Detroit either. It’s important to keep the dynamic mixed, but this is a game where Lions OC Anthony Lynn should lean more on Swift and deemphasize Williams as a runner.

Bring the same outside-in pass rush that worked against the Ravens

The Lions did a very nice job of using both speed and discipline to rush Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. Detroit bagged four sacks on Jackson pressured him repeatedly, but they did so in a way that didn’t surrender big running lanes and opportunities for the MVP candidate to exploit.

What worked for Detroit against Jackson will absolutely work against the Bears, their inferior offensive line, weird schematic choices and inexperienced QB in Fields.

The Bears insisted on trying to block the Browns defensive front with just five or six players. Former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz offered up a great video breakdown of what the Bears were trying to do in Cleveland, but the flip side is that it also shows how the Browns created advantages and sack opportunities with their scheming.

The Lions bring five or more rushers more frequently than most teams do. Detroit led the NFL in blitzing in Weeks 1-2 and the ability of coordinator Aaron Glenn to bring extra pressure from different personnel and alignments is something that the Lions can certainly utilize. Chicago’s offensive line lacks athleticism — especially at tackle. And their scheme insisted on them still trying to run deeper pass routes without helping the line or Fields.

Granted the Lions don’t have Myles Garrett or Jadeveon Clowney on the roster, but Romeo Okwara has proven a very capable pass rusher. Charles Harris played a fantastic game–arguably the best of his career–in Week 3 and can win around the edge well.

It’s likely the Bears adjust their protections to help give Fields more time and more of a chance. Chicago fans are certainly hoping for that, anyway. But the ability to confuse the protection and create mismatches is absolutely there for the Lions defense in this one. The concept of having both Okwara brothers aligned over Jason Peters at left tackle and forcing the attention there, then bringing LB Alex Anzalone or safety Will Harris off the backside in an iso blitz, that’s the kind of creative chaos the Lions can bring effectively in Week 4.

Those concepts work against any of the potential Bears QBs. Andy Dalton and Nick Foles are less likely to be confused as the rookie Fields in what would be his second career start, but they’re also less likely to tuck and run than Fields. The Bengals gave Fields too many escape routes in Week 2, like on this play:

The Browns largely eliminated plays like that by having a linebacker, primarily speedy rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah stay home on the second level. The Lions can do that with Jalen Reeves-Maybin or Anzalone, something they did well against Baltimore outside of one early play.

Pass protection help

(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

The Bears still have one of the NFL’s better pass rushes, and in Khalil Mack they have a versatile pass rusher who can win outside or inside. One of the ways the Browns helped counter Mack was by using extra help for tackles Jack Conklin, Jedrick Wills and Blake Hance, who replaced an injured Wills midway through the game at left tackle.

It goes beyond just installing a tight end over the tackle. The Browns effectively used a WR chip a few times, such as this one from the first quarter.

Wide receiver Rashard Higgins lines up on the inside of the bunch formation. He has a free release for a slant or drag route, and the Bears safety is monitoring that. But Higgins throws more than a token chip block at Mack. It allows Conklin to get extra depth and regain his balance to intercept Mack once Higgins releases.

The Lions can do this with Amon-Ra St. Brown or KhaDarel Hodge to help young right tackle Matt Nelson.

Detroit also used Will Holden as an extra offensive tackle on several reps last week to help against the Ravens and their blitz-heavy defense. Chicago isn’t as creative, but the Bears have a lot of talented players on their front and they coordinate well together. Using the WR or FB Jason Cabinda as a dedicated Mack helper can be effective to allow QB Jared Goff to get more comfortable in the pocket.

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