May 20, 2024

Bears Need Deeper Throws Against Lions

The Bears will look more downfield than they did against the Vikings if they want to attack the Detroit Lions where they are most vulnerable defensively.

In order to defeat the Lions this week, Bears coach Matt Eberflus felt that his offense needed to produce bigger plays.

In Week 11, a mere 9 yards could have determined the outcome of the Bears’ game against the Lions. However, Jared Goff led the team to victory after forcing a punt back to Detroit.

“But how do we do that in the running game?” Eberflus posed a rhetorical question. “How can we, formationally, create those angles and advantages that we want to have to pop those runs and put the offense in advantageous positions?

“In order to produce those big plays in the passing game, we’re going to need to take more shots downfield. Those items are present. All we need to do is seize the opportunity.”

The remark about creating explosive plays with deeper passes appeared to be a jab at the play calling strategy from two weeks prior, when Luke Getsy appeared to break all previous records for screen passes, many of which he claimed Justin Fields selected in an RPO-style manner.

Nevertheless, unless the Lions suddenly exhibit a defensive skill they haven’t demonstrated, there shouldn’t be much reason for the Bears to avoid deep passes in this one.

Seldom are two NFL games played back-to-back against well-known divisional opponents identical to one another. The Bears would adore the opportunity to play that previous game again, but with a different outcome.

That is not going to occur. It must have a somewhat distinct appearance.

It’s safe to assume that screen passes and short passes will not be used in this situation. Here are the three keys to defeating the NFC North-leading Lions.

1. Checkdown from End Zone
The Bears’ pass defense must err on the side of stopping key passes from Detroit. Jared Goff must be forced to check it down in order for them to rally to the tackle.

The Bears must stop giving up the big play that gets even bigger, whether that means tackling receivers to stop big gains after the catch or covering deeper than they did in their previous game against Jameson Williams. To put it another way, Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker.

This season, Detroit has accounted for 15 touchdowns that have traveled at least 20 yards, the second-highest total in the league.

Third and long plays are included in this. On third-and-long, the Bears continue to have the worst pass defense in the league.

They can force field goals if they force the Lions to drive and prevent them from scoring big touchdown plays. In this case, it may even work to the Bears’ advantage because Detroit is not used to kicking field goals in difficult circumstances.

The Bears did an excellent job of this in the first game for 3 1/2 quarters. The Lions had only three plays longer than 14 yards in the earlier game, one a third-quarter run of 20 yards by David Montgomery and another on a third-and-2 pass in the fourth quarter that turned into a 16-yard completion. The other play longer than 14 yards was the pass to Williams for the TD that proved a real disaster and helped trigger the comeback.

Fields ran for larger gains, and the Bears gained a lot when they did this in the first game. They performed a lot better last year, though, for significant gains and even a lengthy TD run. In any case, Fields’ running to the outside helps the running backs break bigger plays by drawing attention away from them.

The key to the 40-plus mintues of ball control the Bears enjoyed in the first game against Detroit was getting Fields involved greatly in the running game. He had 18 carries, a season-high for him and a total only passed twice by D’Onta Forman this season. They were able to possesss the ball and keep the Lions offense sidelined and both Fields’ running and the threat of it helped the running backs contribute, as well.

This extra wrinkle is huge for the Bears because the Lions have the league’s fifth-best run defense.

With the extra possessions from ball control, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to take the shots downfied Eberflus wants to see.

Eberflus said he wants more deep throws. There’s good reason for this when you have DJ Moore as a target and Darnell Mooney in the past has proven the aiblity to get open deep, although they could be down one possible deep target in Tyler Scott due to a hamstring injury.

Only slot cornerback Brian Branch of the Lions is ranked among the top 78 cornerbacks in the league by pro Football Focus. They are only in the middle of the pack when it comes to blitzing, and their outside cornerbacks are frequently beaten.

Since Week 10, the Lions’ 50% consersion rate on third and long is tied for the lowest in the NFL. It is hardly shocking that the Lions are allowing the lowest yards per play in the league—8.4—since the beginning of 2022. This year, it hasn’t changed all that much, so the Bears must capitalize on it.

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