LAKE FOREST – For the majority of this decade, a game against Detroit featured one player that was always in the lineup.
In every match-up since 2011, Matthew Stafford has been the quarterback for the Lions against the Bears. The durable signal-caller had not missed a game since his second season in 2010, starting 136-straight contests along with three playoff games.
Yet 90 minutes before the first Lions-Bears game of 2019 season, Stafford was ruled out with a back injury. It was somewhat stunning news considering his track record of reliability and it forced Jeff Driskel into the lineup.
It made for an adjustment for the Bears since the backup was more of a mobile quarterback, and they had their hands full for a good amount of the afternoon. Driskel threw for 269 yards but was held two a pair of field goals and a touchdown as the Bears escaped with a 20-13 victory.
Now the Bears will have to do it all over again on Thanksgiving Day.
Driskel’s hamstring injury is serious enough that the Lions have decided to make him the back-up for the game at Ford Field and will start rookie David Blough in his place. The former Purdue quarterback was picked up in a preseason trade with the Browns and will make his NFL debut against their division rival.
That only figures to help a Bears’ defense that would have liked to play a bit better this time against the Lions as opposed to their last game on November 10th. Remember, Driskel had a throw to the endzone on the final play to tie the game, but heavy pressure forced a throw out of the endzone.
Cornerback Prince Amukamara and the group would like to tighten up things a bit as they approach their final five games of the season, despite the fact they are still fourth in the NFL in yards (315.6) and points allowed per game (17.1). Their turnovers are down to 13 this season, and for a group that was arguably the best in the NFL last season, there is a desire for more.
“There’s been situations we’ve been in a ‘bend don’t break’ towards the end of the game, giving up leaky yardage. I feel like our red zone and how we’ve been able to get stops and get off the field; I think that’s been huge for us,” said Amukamara. “We’re trying to be better at closing games.”
Like Khalil of Old (Or Last Year)
Remember all those great highlights of Khalil Mack terrorizing opposing backfields in his first season with the Bears?
Well, it’s not been quite as much this season as teams have taken their time to double and triple-team the outside linebacker, making sure that he wouldn’t be the one to beat them on a given day.
Last year through 11 games, Mack had ten sacks with six forced fumbles. In 2019, he’s still got five forced fumbles, but the total of sacks is down to 6.5, as he got his first since October 27th against the Giants on Sunday. His forced fumble on Daniel Jones was his first since the game against the Vikings on September 29th.
While the production statistically has been down the last month-and-a-half, Matt Nagy insists that the linebacker is just a good as last season because of the attention he commands from opposing offenses every week.
“Just watching him play, it’s impossible to say that he hasn’t had a good year. I think he’s had a really good year,” said Nagy of Mack. “There’s a lot of times where he’s getting a lot of people on him. This past week you saw, for whatever reason, there were times where he got a little more singled up, and anytime he gets singled up, he’s usually going to win.
“So I just appreciate the way he comes to practice. Throughout this whole deal, this whole season we’ve had, he’s been a true pro. He cares about the numbers only because it helps the team, and I think that’s how everybody is, so he could care less about all the sack totals. He just wants to win and that’s all I hear from him, that’s what I appreciate the most.”
Does that mean he’s as dominant as last year?
“Absolutely,” said Nagy when asked that question. “He may even be more dominant for that fact; just the amount of attention that he’s getting.”
A First For No. 10
What the Lions are going through right now with their quarterback is what the Bears had to deal with a year ago.
After sustaining a shoulder injury late in a win over the Vikings on Sunday night, Mitchell Trubisky was sidelined for that Thursday’s game against the Lions on the holiday.
The starting quarterback had to stand on the sidelines as Chase Daniel took the field for the team at Ford Field, connecting on 27-of-37 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-16 victory. That won’t happen this year as Trubisky has full shaken off a hip injury suffered against the Rams and will be under center to start on Thursday morning.
For a quarterback that’s played in a number of primetime games along with a playoff contest, there is still something unique for Trubisky when it comes to playing on the holiday.
“I really wanted to play in that game last year. It stunk that I couldn’t, but I’m excited to play on Thanksgiving this year,” said Trubisky. “It’s one of those games that as a kid, you always remember watching the Thanksgiving game and now we get the opportunity to play in it.
“After missing last year, I’m definitely excited to play on Thursday.”
STAT OF THE WEEK: 85
The number of years since the Bears last won three-straight Thanksgiving games. That came between 1932-1934 when the team defeated the Chicago Cardinals twice and the Lions once. Only three times since have the Bears won two-straight games on the holiday, including their last two in 2015 and 2018.