DETROIT – When the Detroit Lions take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday, they’ll be facing an opposing quarterback in Mitch Trubisky who has posted eye-popping numbers against them.
Trubisky is not thought of as a dynamic player, which makes his recent success against the Lions even more frustrating for fans. Sunday Trubisky should be motivated to have another good day against the Lions as he won the Bears starting QB job and is in the final year of his rookie contract.
To get ready for Sunday’s game we went back through the last three Lions-Bears games to see how Trubisky has been so successful.
Here’s what we found – with some ideas on how the Lions can be better on Sunday.
Spread the field
Chicago has lined up in the shotgun with three or four wideouts most plays against the Lions. They do this to open as much space as possible for Trubisky. This gives Trubisky a better chance to find the most favorable matchup inside, quickly throw inside or look for someone on the outside to take a rare shot deep.
Keep it short
Trubisky mainly throws the ball within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. The NFL’s Next Gen Stats show some 60 percent of Trubisky’s throws in his last 3 games against the Lions are either behind the line of scrimmage or within 10 yards of it.
Chicago uses this short, quick passing attack to get Trubisky into a rhythm and set up the few deep shots it takes per game. Chicago has some speedy receivers and with the defense focused on trying to take away underneath routes one of those receivers can find space deep.
This showed in the Lions-Bears Thanksgiving game last year. Trubisky was 29/38 with most of his throws near the line of scrimmage. The two throws 20 or more yards down the field were completions on Chicago’s game-winning drive in the 4th quarter.
A large part of why Trubisky has been so good against the Lions is Detroit’s defense has not been good against anyone the past two years.
The Lions defense allowed the most pass yards of any team and was 28th in 1st down percentage allowed last year. Trubisky and other QBs were able to rack up completions, tire the Lions defense out by keeping them on the field and eventually score.
One reason the defense struggled is the Lions lacked difference makers. They also played too conservative – possibly because they didn’t have the right players to carry out Matt Patricia’s defense. That’s why there are plenty of new players and a new coordinator on the defensive side of the ball this year.
Changes the Lions can make: Be aggressive
A change Lions fans want to see from this defense is a more aggressive approach. Last year, the Lions did not blitz often, only rushing three or four defenders with the others dropping into coverage.
Trey Flowers was able to get a pass rush going in the second half of the season, but he can’t do it himself. Some of the Lions new additions like Nick Williams, Danny Shelton and Jamie Collins should help with that. So should getting a player like Da’Shawn Hand back from injury.
The Lions offense can also help here by taking an early lead and keeping the pressure on throughout. Being in front will force Trubisky to press for a comeback instead of letting him get comfortable and confident as the game goes. It helps that Matthew Stafford is back for Sunday’s game. Stafford did not play in either of the Lions-Bears matchups last season.
Play to your strengths
Adding new players on defense lets the Lions move pieces around to places they’re better suited. Jamie Collins is expected to play all over; so the Lions should let him cover Chicago’s tight ends or running backs. That’ll free Jarrad Davis up for blitzing.
The Lions should also feel more confident about covering receivers as Justin Coleman and Amani Oruwariye are joined by Desmond Trufant and Jeff Okudah. And adding safety Duron Harmon to play a deeper role allows Tracy Walker to play closer to the line of scrimmage and take tight ends in man coverage.
With those new players in the mix the Lions defense should be better – which should help them stop Mitch Trubisky and the Bears Sunday.