|Bears get another shot at Lions after surrendering 34 fourth-quarter points|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 25 October 2007 12:45|
The teams meet again at Soldier Field on Sunday, four weeks after the Lions scored a league-record 34 points in the fourth quarter of a 37-27 victory in Detroit.
This time, the Bears (3-4) are more whole and looking to pull to .500 heading into the bye. The Lions (4-2) are still adapting to their role as contenders.
``We aren't satisfied, because we haven't accomplished anything yet,'' Lions center Dominic Raiola said. ``We haven't gone on the road and won a big game yet. Until we pass that test, we can't put ourselves on any kind of higher level in the NFC.''
That higher level is unfamiliar territory for the Lions.
They already have one more win than last year, coach Rod Marinelli's first, and they got a boost last week when Kevin Jones made his first start since suffering a foot injury last December. He ran for 76 yards and caught six passes for 34 in a 23-16 victory over Tampa Bay.
Yet, there's that uneasy feeling.
They're 1-2 on the road after winning just once away from home last season.
They got blown out at Philadelphia and Washington, and all four wins were close. Still, the Lions sent a loud message when they rallied from a 13-3 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Chicago, even if the Bears were in disarray.
Brian Griese was making his first start in Rex Grossman's place and the defense was a mess.
Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs (hamstring), safety Adam Archuleta (broken hand) and cornerbacks Nathan Vasher (groin) and Charles Tillman (ankle) missed the game. Vasher still is out, but the other three are expected to play this week.
``It's always better when you get guys healthy, but there's a lot of things we did in that game that are correctable mistakes: linemen being in the wrong gaps, people missing tackles, things like that, the same problems we've had,'' linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said. ``Hopefully we can correct those things and we'll come out with a better effort this week.''
The offense became pass-happy. Griese threw 52 times, tied for third most in team history, and completed 34 for 286 yards with two touchdowns, with three interceptions. Not exactly a promising debut.
He's scraped off the rust since then, throwing for more than 300 yards each of the past two games, but the Bears remain in an uneasy position. Expectations were soaring entering this season, but now, .500 never looked so good.
``That's everything,'' defensive tackle Tommie Harris said. ``It's like a new start.''
The defending NFC champions were 1-3 and plummeting like a deflated balloon after that first Detroit game. The Bears got some air the following week when they rallied to win at Green Bay, only to get it sucked out with by a 34-31 loss at home to Minnesota that was one of their most demoralizing in recent memory.
The up-and-down pattern continued last week at Philadelphia.
Griese passed for 322 yards and orchestrated a 97-yard drive in the final 1:52 to lift the Bears to a 19-16 win.
``Believe me, he's got our full attention,'' said Marinelli, who was on Tampa Bay's staff when Griese played there.
Griese's numbers hint at a shift in offensive identity for the Bears. Yet coach Lovie Smith insisted Chicago remains a run-first team, even though it has 61 more passing attempts (163) than rushes (102) the past four weeks. And even though the running game ranks 30th at 81.1 yards per game.
The Bears believe the big gains on the ground are coming, even if the offense seems a little more aired out these days. A year ago, they passed the ball 514 times and ran it 503.
``We're a team that gets off the bus running the football,'' Smith said. ``That statement, I have it memorized and that's what we are, period. Most of our games you can see we start out running the football, and you have to take what a team gives you. ... Our foundation is the run.''
The sparks are coming from other areas.
Devin Hester has provided more than a few, returning two punts and a kickoff for touchdowns, but the Lions will likely follow the Eagles' example and keep the ball away from him.
``We went out and worked really hard on trying to kick the ball into Lake Michigan and make sure it floats in the bottom of the river,'' Marinelli said.
Marinelli's weak attempt at humor, the confusion of water bodies and botched English aside, the Lions' execution hasn't been bad this season. And they are the team with the winning record in this matchup.