Following a 35-32 home loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Chicago Bears will be back at Soldier Field on Sunday. Led by quarterback Justin Fields, they welcome the Detroit Lions to town, looking to build on their offensive momentum and the NFC Player of the Week performance Fields delivered last week. As kickoff approaches, here’s a snapshot look at Sunday’s game.
1. Pressing question
What can Justin Fields do for an encore after his record-setting performance in Sunday’s loss?
For starters, he can aim to pass for at least 200 yards, a total he has reached only once this season and five times in his career. Fields should have ample opportunity to let it fly Sunday, too, against a Lions defense that ranks last in the NFL in passing yards allowed per play (7.8) and 29th in passing yards allowed per game (268.5).
For Fields to capitalize, he will have to remain alert and decisive and continue to retain his pocket presence. Fields also has made it clear he’s prioritizing sound decision-making, knowing when to take big-play shots and when to accept modest gains that are there for the offense.
“I’ve always thought I’ve been able to make the big play,” Fields said. “But the one thing you can’t do is force big plays. Just kind of let them come to you.”
The Bears also would love to see Fields lead them to victory, especially if it means the offense has to engineer a late game-winning drive. With two fourth-quarter chances Sunday to put together a tying or go-ahead drive, the Bears failed. They also were unsuccessful in late-game come-from-behind attempts in losses to the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Commanders.
“It’s about executing, like anything else,” offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. “Our guys are getting better at executing. Then when it comes down to those moments, it’s always about the players. And they have to take advantage of those opportunities.”
2. Players in the spotlight
Before the season began, Equanimeous St. Brown bet his brother Amon-Ra that the Bears would finish with more victories than the Lions.
The stakes? “A thousand dollars,” Equanimeous said. “And we’re leading right now.”
So yes, Sunday’s game has added significance for the siblings as they prepare to face each other for the third time in the NFL. The St. Browns met twice last season when Amon-Ra was a rookie in Detroit and Equanimeous was with the Green Bay Packers.
Amon-Ra has enjoyed a more productive individual season with a team-best 39 catches for 399 yards and three touchdowns. He also has the attention of the Bears defense, which understands it must respect Amon-Ra’s speed and the variety of ways the Lions turn him loose.
Said coordinator Alan Williams: “He’s productive with the ball in his hands. You can see that they like him because they find different ways to get him the ball.”
Asked for a scouting report on his younger brother, Equanimeous was predictably positive Thursday.
“He does everything well,” he said. “He’s a solid receiver all-around. He can block, run good routes, catch the ball. So we’re going to have to scheme him up.”
Equanimeous has 11 grabs for 164 yards and a touchdown this season but is trying to bounce back after a crucial fourth-down drop on the Bears’ final possession in the loss to the Dolphins.
“I just dropped it,” he said. “It won’t happen again. I promise.”
Equanimeous also has promised his younger brother that the Bears would score at least 30 points Sunday. But he could have a reduced role with the Bears positioning to activate Byron Pringle off injured reserve. Still, the St. Brown family will be in attendance with custom-made split jerseys — Bears on one half, Lions on the other. And Equanimeous still appreciates the significance of the moment.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “It’s a cool thing.”
3. Keep an eye on …
Yes, Bears fans. That does still matter to some extent.
Even with the noticeable progress Fields and the offense are making, it has been disconcerting to see the defense stumble so significantly the last couple of weeks. In losses to the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins, the Bears defense gave up 10 touchdowns over 17 true possessions, excluding game-ending kneel-downs.
In Sunday’s defeat, the Bears didn’t record a sack or a takeaway for just the seventh time in the last 10 seasons.
Williams has been bothered by his group’s execution. But …
“I’m trying not to overreact to, hey, it’s two ballgames,” Williams said, “but still cognizant of what we’re trying to get done and where we’re going.”
Sure, the defense took an inevitable step back after its two captains — Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith — were traded Oct. 26 and Nov. 1, respectively. But that doesn’t give the unit a free pass for the rest of the season. In order to establish Matt Eberflus’ HITS principle as meaningful and with an eye on creating a winning mentality, the Bears need to stay locked in on the details and play with undeniable tenacity. Especially at home against a 2-6 opponent that has averaged only 12 points per game over its last four outings.
4. On the rise
Williams was asked Thursday if anyone on his defense took a step forward and didn’t hesitate with his answer. “Jack Sanborn,” he said.
Sanborn, an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin by way of Lake Zurich High School, made his first career start against the Dolphins and contributed seven tackles from his middle linebacker spot. He was assignment-sound, active in pursuing the ball and reliable as a tackler.
“He looked like he belonged,” Williams said.
That provided something to build on.
“You come out of that ballgame going, OK, (that was a) step forward,” Williams said. “Now let’s take one more step forward.”
The Bears hope Sanborn can become quicker and more reactive in pass coverage and continue building on what has been an encouraging rookie rise. His first NFL start offered a confidence boost.
“The moment wasn’t too big,” Sanborn said. “I was able to relaxed out there, stay calm and do my job.”
5. Injury report
The Bears ruled out cornerback Kindle Vildor as he recovers from an ankle injury. Undrafted rookie Jaylon Jones filled in when was Vildor was hurt last week.
Defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad is listed as doubtful with a knee injury after he didn’t practice all week. Eberflus said the Bears are “still working through” how they might fill in Muhammad’s role, if needed.
“We were hoping that he would go today,” Eberflus said. “We’re going to give him time to process and get through and treat, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Cornerback Jaylon Johnson (oblique) and right guard Teven Jenkins (hip) are questionable after they were limited Thursday and Friday.
The Bears waived tight end Jake Tonges on Thursday, clearing a roster spot that they might use to activate either Pringle or linebacker Matt Adams off IR.
For the Lions, wide receiver Josh Reynolds (back) has been ruled out. Offensive tackle Matt Nelson (calf) is doubtful. Safety Kerby Joseph (concussion protocol), cornerback Chase Lucas (ankle), safety Ifeatu Melifonwu (ankle) and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (elbow) are questionable.
Running back D’Andre Swift, who was limited earlier in the week with ankle and shoulder injuries, is expected to play.
Brad Biggs (5-4)
The Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles are the only teams in the league ranked in the top 10 in passing and rushing offense, but a lot of the Lions’ productivity came in the first four games when they averaged 35 points per game. They are averaging 12 points over the last four games, so things are somewhat stalled during Year 2 of a rebuild for general manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell. The Lions are better on the offensive line, and quarterback Jared Goff can be dangerous if he has a clean pocket. Neither team is good on third down, and both have been porous against the run. Figure the Bears rate the advantage at home.
Bears 28, Lions 24
Colleen Kane (6-3)
The Lions present a prime opportunity for the Bears not only to stack another big offensive performance from quarterback Justin Fields but also come away with a win. The wild three-interception game against Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers last week aside, the Lions defense has been bad, and Fields, wide receivers Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney and running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert all could be in line to capitalize. The defense will have to be better than it was against the Dolphins, but it’s capable of helping pull off this win.
Bears 27, Lions 23
Dan Wiederer (6-3)
What could be better for a surging Bears offense than a visit from the league’s 32nd-ranked defense? The Lions are allowing 417.3 yards per game and 6.4 per play. Justin Fields should be eager to use the running start he has built up over the last three weeks and ready to hit the springboard a game like this could provide. If Fields Fever swept through Chicago after last week’s game — a narrow loss to the Dolphins — the thermometers might break if he has another big outing in a division win at home.
Bears 27, Lions 20