The Detroit Lions’ offseason was well documented on the police blotter. Four Lions players were arrested seven times during the summer, leaving many to shake their heads and talk about things like discipline and maturity. Most people see things like discipline and maturity as good things, but not Detroit wide receiver Nate Burleson, who implied that the team’s slow start was due to that pesky carryover of maturity:
“We had a lot of discipline issues during the offseason, and we wanted to tighten up because the perception of this organization started to change …. But finding that maturity off the field can’t compromise who we are on the field, and who we are on the field are the bad guys … I think everybody took it in their own hands to be better men off the field, and that followed us a little bit on the field, but I think we’re back where we need to be.”
Whew, glad you managed to shake that off. I just hate it when people around me try to be better people. Please keep in mind he’s talking about getting their “swagger” back after they stumbled into a win over the Philadelphia Eagles last week, despite racking up 16 penalties. They only won because Philadelphia out-mistaked them.
Honestly, talking about the Lions’ lack of maturity and discipline has become a shortcut to explain all their failures and shortcomings among talking heads, which is maybe a bit of laziness. But it’s quotes like these that make me completely unable to put any faith in Detroit. It’s not just the attitude that’s the problem; it’s the pride in the attitude. It’s the unwillingness to admit fault or take responsibility for failure. Since I don’t have the power to fire Jim Schwartz, who perpetuates this attitude, I’m just going to roll my eyes and look ahead to Detroit’s next game.
Monday Night Football pits the 2-3 Lions against a 4-1 Chicago Bears team coming off a bye. Though the Bears are a bit overrated since they have yet to beat a team with a winning record (the combined record of teams they have defeated is 8-13), what makes Chicago particularly dangerous is that they feel very confident right now. Jay Cutler looks comfortable and content (for him) in an offense that has finally been tailored to its personnel and its quarterback. The Lions’ best hope is in getting to Cutler and knocking him out of his comfort zone. If they can take away his favorite receiver, Brandon Marshall, and put him on the run, the Lions have a chance of forcing the Cutler into making mistakes.
The performance of Detroit special teams will be something to watch for. The Lions set an ignominious record earlier this season by allowing both a punt return for a touchdown and a kick return for a touchdown in consecutive weeks. Now they’re facing a team with the most exciting return man in the game, Devin Hester. I’m going to go ahead and mark down a special teams touchdown for Hester now.
Detroit’s secondary will probably also have a hard time of it on Monday night. Safety Louis Delmas’ return last week was much welcome for a Lions team that doubled its takeaway total through four weeks (three) in last week’s game. Delmas’ presence helps stabilize the inconsistent unit, but the secondary has long been a weak spot for the Lions and now they are dealing with injuries. Cornerbacks Bill Bentley (shoulder) and Jacob Lacey (concussion) both sat out practice this week. The Lions resigned Alphonso Smith today, who was cut from the team before the start of the season, but Smith was always terrible and is little more than a warm body they can dress in a uniform. I don’t think this unit can cover Brandon Marshall, who has already connected with his quarterback for 496 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Detroit has managed a middling run game with Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith combining for just under 100 yards a game, but this week will be quite a challenge against the league’s number one ranked rush defense. Chicago has held opponents to an impressive 65.8 rushing yards per game. On the other side of the ball, Chicago has an awesome running back tandem in Matt Forte and Michael Bush. The Lions will have to slow these two down to have a chance.
The only matchup in which I favor the Lions is their passing offense. I am a big fan of Matthew Stafford and this offense is averaging almost 320 passing yards a game, good enough for second in the league. Calvin Johnson has shockingly not yet caught a touchdown from Stafford, but that will change soon. Chicago’s Tim Jennings has been outstanding so far this year and the Bears have taken the ball away an astonishing 17 times in five games (though five came from Tony Romo, which almost doesn’t count), but I still think Megatron will manage to have a big game. Stafford will look for him early and often.
The sloppy play of last week will not win the Lions the game this time around. Detroit has a 2-3 record because they’re careless, immature, and undisciplined. But they do have talent and that talent has a way of coming alive in the fourth quarter. On paper, this looks to be a rout at Soldier Field, but I think the Lions will make a game of it. All that said, I have to take the better coached, more disciplined home team. Chicago moves to 5-1 on Monday night.