Warning labels are unnecessary for coach Dan Campbell and the Lions when it comes to the obstacles presented by the last-place Chicago Bears on Detroit’s desired path to its first division title since 1993.
The Lions scored two touchdowns in the last three minutes to defeat the Bears 31-26 last month, and the rematch is Sunday in Chicago.
“We were fortunate to come out with a win,” Campbell said of the first meeting this season between the NFC North foes.
The Lions (9-3) subsequently lost to Green Bay and defeated the New Orleans Saints to hold a three-game lead over the Minnesota Vikings and the Packers in the division with five games remaining.
The Bears (4-8) are coming off their bye week after pulling out an ugly 12-10 victory over the Vikings.
“I’m not worried about the whole revenge factor,” Campbell said. “We’re hungry. We’ve got to win to win (the division). We want this, too. For (the Bears), they’re playing pretty good football right now. And they want to win. I’m not worried about revenge, I’m worried about what this team presents.”
Bears quarterback Justin Fields looks like a threat again after missing more than a month with a thumb injury. He was back for the first meeting with the Lions, and passed for 196 yards while rushing for another 104 yards.
Fields had 147 and 132 rushing yards against Detroit in last season’s matchups.
“They’re going to change some stuff up on us,” Fields said. “We’re going to be prepared for that. We’ll probably see something that we didn’t see in the first game.”
Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn knows the Lions haven’t figured out a way to contain Fields when he uses his feet. Campbell knows the simple approach of sealing the edges is easier said than done.
“Every week, I guarantee every team does the same as what we’re talking about, is how you contain this guy,” Campbell said. “You keep him in the pocket, you don’t let him out. And every week, he gets out.”
When he does throw, Fields has a preferred target, D.J. Moore. In the past two games, Moore has a combined 18 receptions for 210 yards and a touchdown.
The Bears are looking for a better finish in the rematch.
“If we can just kind of carry what we did the first 56 minutes of the game against Detroit the first time and finish it out like we did against the Vikings this last week, we’ll be in pretty good shape,” Chicago tight end Cole Kmet said.
Detroit’s latest outing unfolded much differently. The Lions grabbed a 21-0 lead over the Saints during the first seven minutes, then barely hung on for a 33-28 win.
Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta had his most productive game of the season with nine receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown.
The Lions didn’t have a turnover after committing a total of seven the previous two games. However, the defense continued to struggle. Detroit has given an average of 30.3 points the last four games.
Pass rushing specialist Bruce Irvin, who spent most of his career with the Seattle Seahawks, had a sack while playing 11 snaps in his Lions debut.
Campbell said, “We would like to work him in more.”
The Lions placed starting defensive lineman Alim McNeill on injured reserve due to a knee injury. Center Frank Ragnow, who is dealing with back, knee and toe injuries, sat out practice on Wednesday, but there was optimism he would play on Sunday. Linebacker Alex Anzalone, who missed the Saints game, returned to practice this week.
Chicago’s injury report after the bye was promising, as only linebacker Noah Sewell (knee) was limited in practice on Wednesday.