ReFo: Bears @ Lions, Week 4
With an early claim for first place in the NFC North on the line, the Detroit Lions were able to pick up the win over the Chicago Bears, building a big second half lead before holding off a late rally from Jay Cutler and the Bears.
The game was filled with big plays and turnovers, with the Lions looking for the most part like they were ready to pull away, but weren’t truly able to close the door on the Bears until they recovered the onside kick with 43 seconds left in the game.
With big performances from two defensive linemen, some sub-standard quarterback play, and a highlight-filled performance from one offensive playmaker, there were plenty of talking points in this one, so with that in mind, let’s take a look at who stood out on the field on Sunday.
Chicago – Three Performances of Note
In a game that saw plenty of his teammates struggles heavily, defensive end Julius Peppers (+5.6) was the main bright spot on defense. Against the run he was impressive, with all four of his solo tackles resulting in a defensive stop, giving him a Run Stop Percentage of 21.1%, by far his highest of the season to this point. His biggest impact, however, was as a pass rusher, where he finished with a sack, two hits, and a quarterback hurry on 28 pass rushing attempts.
The highlight there came on 2nd-and-10 with 26 seconds left in the first half. With the Bears already trailing, and the Lions driving, Peppers was able to beat left tackle Riley Reiff to the outside and force the ball loose as Matthew Stafford got ready to throw. The turnover allowed the Bears to drive for a field goal to end the half, keeping them in the game at a time when it looked like things were starting to get away from them.
In a game that saw him put up his worst PFF grade of the year so far, quarterback Jay Cutler (-2.7), saved himself from a potential “Had a Bad Day Team” appearance with some solid play to end the game. Before that, however, it was a turnover-filled performance that he’d soon prefer to forget, littered with bad throws and bad decisions. He was fortunate not to add to his interception tally on 1st-and-10 with 10:13 to go in the second quarter, with a late throw to Alshon Jeffrey leaving the ball in perfect position for linebacker DeAndre Levy to break on it.
If you’re looking for the perfect play to highlight his bad day, look no further than the Lions’ final touchdown of the game on 3rd-and-10 with 27 seconds left in the third quarter. Guilty of holding onto the ball too long, Cutler then seemed to forget about the Lions’ pass rush that had tormented him all day, leaving the ball low and allowing Ndamukong Suh to swat it loose, with Nick Fairley picking it up and going four yards for the score.
Mills Mauled in the Fourth Quarter
While he didn’t play brilliantly by any stretch of the imagination, right tackle Jordan Mills (-7.0) held his own as a pass rusher for much of the game. And then we come to the fourth quarter, where the combination of Willie Young and Israel Idonije took him to task to the tune of six hurries and a holding penalty. The score line allowed the Lions’ defensive ends to focus solely on getting to Cutler, and Mills simply fell apart.
Even when things started going well for the Bears, he continued to allow pressure, like on the Bears’ final touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion, being beaten inside and then outside on consecutive plays by Young. It means that, after a flawless performance in pass protection in the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, he has now allowed 18 total pressures in the last three games, not what you want from a starting offensive lineman.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
Continuing his impressive start to the year, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (+6.2) turned in his best, and most complete, game of the year so far on Sunday. Giving the pairing of center Roberto Garza and rookie right guard Kyle Long plenty of problems, Suh stood out for more than just his forced fumble that lead to the touchdown which was ultimately the difference between the two teams. With five total pressures from 44 pass rushes, Suh’s 9.7 Pass Rush Productivity Rating doesn’t leap off the page at you, but it was the manner in which he got it, quickly, that stood out during the game.
Add to that some solid play against the run, where he had two tackles that both resulted in a defensive stop on just nine snaps, and it’s easy to see why we were so impressed by his play. It’s often been discussed if Suh would ever live up to the hype and, after an impressive end to 2012, he appears ready to make 2013 his best season yet.
Big Plays from Delmas
Throughout the game Lions safety Louis Delmas (+3.7) didn’t make many mistakes, but it’s the big plays that he did make that allowed him to come away with such a high grade and the first of those was one of the best plays of the day. On 3rd-and-3, with 1:24 left in the opening quarter, he broke on an errant throw by Cutler beautifully, reaching the ball right as Jeffrey did, before outmuscling the receiver for the ball.
Adding another interception late in the third quarter, and forcing tight end Martellus Bennett out of bounds with eight seconds left in the first half to save a touchdown, he had his best day in coverage, with all three passes coming his way ending up in a positive play by him. An up-and-down player throughout his career, it’s important that Delmas now follows up on what was his second-highest graded game since entering the league in 2009.
When you can fumble the ball away and still finish a game with a positive grade, you know you’ve ran well. Reggie Bush (+2.4) did just that on Sunday, wowing Ford Field with some fantastic plays in space. He forced eight missed tackles on the day, including three on one carry on 1st-and-10 with 7:55 to go in the first quarter, spending most of the game cutting and spinning away from Bears’ defenders with ease.
Those eight missed tackles, combined with an impressive 4.17 yards after contact average, gave him an Elusive Rating of 151.5, by far his highest of the year. I’d openly wondered why the Lions had opted to sign Bush in the offseason, given they already had Joique Bell, who I felt was ready for a bigger role. Not only have the Lions made me look rather foolish, they are finding ways to get them both on the field together, adding a new dimension to an offense that already intimidated many.
– While the Bears may have missed eight tackles on Bush, they still finished the game with one less than the Lions’ defense, who missed ten in total.
– The Bears had converted two fourth downs by the time they finally converted a third down late in the fourth quarter.
– Stafford completed just four of the 11 passes he attempted that traveled at least ten yards downfield in the air.
Reggie Bush and Louis Delmas both provided big plays, but it was the dominance of Ndamukong Suh that stood out throughout, sealing the deal with what wound up being the game-winning forced fumble.