The Chicago Bears come out of their bye ready to take on the final stretch of the season. First up is a rematch against the Detroit Lions. Here are five players who could help get a win.
The Chicago Bears had their bye in Week 13. They got to nurse some of their bumps and bruises and plan for the final stretch of the regular season. Their first game is against the Detroit Lions, a team they dominated a couple of weeks ago but lost due to a collapse in the final five minutes.
Had it not been for that late-game collapse, the Bears would be holding a three-game winning streak. Instead, they are still looking for their first back-to-back wins in the Matt Eberflus era.
Additionally, the Bears are trying to end their losing streak coming out of the bye. They have not won a game coming out of the bye week since 2013, a span of nine games. They don’t want to make it a full decade of losing.
Chicago should feel pretty confident heading into this game. Despite the Lions having a high-powered offense, the Bears know they can shut it down. They did so, at least for 55 minutes, in their first matchup. Detroit had 338 yards of offense, but 148 of them came on two late-game drives that helped them come from behind. Furthermore, they had an earlier drive that went 75 yards. That means they had 66 percent of their yards on just three drives.
Now the Bears hope they can repeat that performance but this time finish the game and get the upset win.
Here are five players who can help bring that victory to fruition.
Cole Kmet, Tight End
Cole Kmet is having a career year. He is on pace to have career-highs in targets, catches, receiving yards, and touchdown catches. He has become a dependable target for quarterback Justin Fields.
The problem is that he still is not as involved in the offense as he should be. There are still games in which it seems the coaches forget that he is on the field. In Week 7, he had zero targets. In the Bears’ Week 12 win over the Minnesota Vikings, he had six targets and catches in the first quarter and a half. Suddenly, however, he disappeared. He only had one target the rest of the way.
The same happened against the Lions in their first matchup. He had four targets and caught three of them for 20 yards. That cannot happen again this week. He is a dependable receiver and gives the quarterback a great target, especially in the red zone.
It is very difficult for defenders to tackle Kmet. He can take advantage of that and find the end zone. That is something the Bears have trouble with. They can move the ball but cannot get it into the end zone. Kmet can and should help.
Jaylon Johnson, Cornerback
Jaylon Johnson is playing for a new contract. He wants to be among the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL. So far this season, he is playing like one. Opposing quarterbacks have a hard time completing passes against him, completing just 57.4 percent of passes thrown his way. He also is among the league leaders in separation from receivers.
Johnson has three interceptions for the season. However, he should have more. He has dropped several sure interceptions this season. In the first game against Detroit, he had two opportunities to intercept Detroit quarterback Jared Goff.
One of them could have turned the game. He had a clear pick-six when the Lions were threatening to score. There was no one between him and a 92-yard touchdown run, but he couldn’t handle the pass. On the next play, the Lions scored a touchdown to tie the game.
Johnson will have more opportunities this week. Goff has shown that pressure gets to him and he will throw picks. In the first game, he threw three of them. Johnson has to take advantage of his chances to make game-changing plays. After all, he wants to be known as a game-changing cornerback.
Roschon Johnson, Running Back
The Chicago Bears rank third in the NFL in rushing. They are doing it despite getting decimated by injuries. Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson, and D’Onta Foreman have all missed multiple games this season.
Herbert was on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He has been back for two games but he lacks the explosiveness he had before the injury.
Foreman also has an ankle injury suffered during the first matchup against the Lions. He missed the Week 12 game against the Vikings and the team hopes the bye week helped him even more.
That leaves Johnson. He suffered a concussion that kept him out of two games. He has returned for a few games now, but only now does it look like he’s cleared the cobwebs.
If Herbert and Foreman are limited, it is incumbent on Johnson to have a good game. He helped in the victory over the Vikings, having 110 yards from scrimmage. In the first game against Detroit, he had just 30 yards.
If Johnson can have another nice all-around game, it will go far to helping the offense. He can take pressure off of Fields and if the defense starts to load up at the line of scrimmage it will open space up for the receivers downfield.
Gervon Dexter, Defensive Tackle
One of the best things about the 2023 season for the Chicago Bears is the quick turnaround the defense had against the run. Last season, they ranked 31st against the run. This season, however, they skyrocketed to number one.
It is amazing how well the run defense is doing, more so if you watched them last season.
One of the biggest reasons for the change is rookie defensive tackle Gervon Dexter. He has taken big steps in his development since the start of the season. Despite having a large frame (6-foot-6, 312 pounds), he is very quick and athletic.
Dexter can help plug up the middle of the line. However, he uses his athleticism to slip past offensive linemen and get into the backfield.
With the one-two duo of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, the Lions have a strong rushing attack. However, the Bears want to show that they deserve that top ranking against the run. Dexter is integral to helping shut down that rushing attack. He will also help put pressure on Goff and force him to throw more interceptions.
Montez Sweat, Defensive End
A controversy brewed after the first game against the Lions. When Detroit marched down the field and scored to take the lead, Montez Sweat, Chicago’s best pass rusher, was standing on the sideline watching it all happen.
It turns out that Eberflus has a platoon system with the defense. He said it was to keep the players fresh. However, when your best defensive player plays on just 63 percent of the defensive snaps there is a problem.
The platoon did not change much in the next game against Minnesota. Sweat played on 71 percent of the snaps.
It is difficult to believe that giving your star player more time on the field without giving him some proper rest. The Lions played their star defender, Aidan Hutchinson, on 93 percent of the defensive snaps. He was still fresh enough to explode on Chicago Bears right tackle Darnell Wright, throw him like a rag doll, and force a Fields fumble. That fumble resulted in a safety and sealed the win for Detroit.
If Eberflus will be pig-headed and continue with this ridiculous platoon, Sweat needs to make a big impact during the time he is on the field. He has to be such a force that it makes it difficult to take him out. There cannot be another situation in which he is standing and watching while Detroit marches down the field.
The players look to Sweat as a leader and take his cue. He can only do that when he is on the field.