The Chicago Bears defense will have to defend against the talented core of skill players deployed by the Detroit Lions this weekend.
The unit has relatively held their own in the last two games facing against the opposing teams’ skill positions, but Sunday will be a unique challenge for the Bears.
The Lions arguably have the most well-rounded and threatening core of young weapons out of any team in the NFL. The Lions have four players in 2023 who have scored 4+ scrimmage touchdowns making this offense incredibly difficult to defend.
The bulk of the Lions scoring has been done by former Bears running back David Montgomery. Montgomery signed with the Lions in 2023 and took the role previously held by Jamaal Williams, who led the league with 17 total touchdowns in 2022.
The former Bears running back has filled that role perfectly. Montgomery has scored a touchdown in five of his six games in 2023, including a three touchdown performance against the Green Bay Packers in Week 4. After missing two weeks, Montgomery returned last weekend and totaled 116 rushing yards (an insane 9.67 rushing yards per carry) and one touchdown.
The former 3rd-round pick in Chicago will likely be adamant about sticking it to his former team that neglected to bring him back in 2023. However, the Bears defense will also have to be prepared for his running-mate and electric rookie, Jahmyr Gibbs.
“The backs are a big part of what they do,” head coach Matt Eberflus said on Monday. “The addition of the new back that they have, he’s obviously an explosive player with Montgomery. I think that’s a really a yin and yang type of situation and really good for them.”
The 12th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft has started to find his spark over the last few weeks and is helping take the Lions offense to a new level. In his last three games, Gibbs has recorded 427 scrimmage yards and all four of his touchdowns on the season. The rookie playmaker is a true threat out of the backfield to complement the down-hill style Montgomery is used to.
The Bears staff got a good look at Gibbs during the pre-draft process coming out of Alabama and got a solid idea about what’s the most important part of his game to be to able to defend against.
“Just the explosiveness, the same thing we saw when he was coming out,” Eberflus explained. “We all went down there and visited with him and we certainly really liked his tape coming out and explosiveness that he brings in the screen game and in the run game. The cutback ability, the ability to circle your defense, bounce and get outside [are things you have to defend against].”
Gibbs has had five or more targets in the passing game in each of his last four games. In Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens, Gibbs had a career-high 10 targets, 9 receptions, and 58 receiving yards. The Bears linebackers will have to be on their A-game on Sunday in defending the rookie out of the backfield.
During the last meeting between the Bears and Lions in Week 17, 2022, Chicago gave up 274 scrimmage yards and three total touchdowns to the Lions two running backs (Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift). The new two-headed monster in the Lions backfield so far has been even better in 2023 than it was in 2022.
In the passing game, the downfield targets are just as critical to defend when facing the Lions. The arial attack is led by Amon-Ra St. Brown who leads the team with 65 receptions, 821 yards, and is tied with a team-high four receiving touchdowns.
Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta will also be a factor the Bears will have to defend against. LaPorta has 47 receptions for 474 yards and also has four touchdowns in 2023. The rookie continues to be a critical part of the Lions passing game with each passing week and he continues to inch closer to the NFL rookie tight end records.
Beyond these four stars already mentioned, the Lions have spread the touchdowns out to wide receiver Josh Reynolds (3 touchdowns), running back Craig Reynolds (1 touchdown), tight end Brock Wright (1 touchdown), wide receiver Jameson Williams (1 touchdown) and wide receiver Kalif Raymond (1 touchdown).
Overall, this offense is stacked with talent and have a very good quarterback throwing them the ball in Jared Goff. Goff threw for 255 passing yards with three passing touchdowns in his last matchup against the Bears. According to Eberflus, the only way to defend the Lions offensive unit comes down to balance.
“Those guys being able to distribute the ball to those guys equally, that’s what makes it so hard to defend,” he added.
We’ll see how well the Bears unit can fare against the formidable upcoming challenge.