Red-hot Lions look to avenge early-season loss to Bears
DETROIT -- Overconfidence should not be an issue for the Detroit Lions this Sunday. While the Chicago Bears have only three wins, one of them came at Detroit's expense.
The Lions (8-4) own a four-game winning streak and a two-game lead over Green Bay and Minnesota in the NFC North, but they know they can't look past the other team in the division. The Bears posted a 17-14 victory in the first meeting at Soldier Field on Oct. 2.
Detroit, however, will have the home-field advantage the second time around.
"Chicago's got our full attention," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "Obviously, they beat us at their place the last time we played them and they beat us pretty handily, so we've got our work cut out for us."
Stafford and the Lions' offense were unable to produce an offensive touchdown in that game. He threw two interceptions and the only touchdown Detroit scored came on Andre Roberts' 85-yard punt return with less than two minutes remaining.
"They just handled us, to be honest with you," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "They played us tough in every phase of the game. They ran to the ball, they hit us hard, and we were not as effective as we're capable. Some of it had to do with them."
That loss dropped to the Lions to 1-3 and few people would have anticipated they would be in control of the division for the second meeting. Detroit recorded its first seven wins with fourth-quarter comebacks.
The Lions finally took care of business earlier last Sunday, keeping the potent New Orleans Saints' attack under wraps in a 28-13 road victory.
Stafford doesn't think the loss to the Bears was a wakeup call for the team.
"I don't know if we needed one. At that point, that was our third in a row," he said. "If the first two didn't wake you up, I don't know what's wrong with you. We've just played better football since then. In that game, we turned the ball over twice. Those were huge turnovers and cost us points. Since then, we've done a nice job of avoiding that and that's been a big turnaround for us."
The Lions are banged up on offense. Wide receiver Marvin Jones returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday after missing the Saints game with a quad issue. Running back Theo Riddick is nursing wrist and ankle injuries, and center Travis Swanson is in the league's concussion protocol and won't play Sunday. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah is a question mark because of knee and ankle injuries.
Chicago (3-9) has been one of the league's most injury-riddled teams this season. The Bears defeated San Francisco, 26-6, on Sunday behind a stout defense and a workhorse performance from rookie running back Jordan Howard.
He rushed for 117 yards on 32 carries and scored three touchdowns in snowy conditions. Howard, who emerged after season-opening starter Jeremy Langford was injured, gained 111 yards in 23 carries against the Lions.
"At the start of the season, I'm not sure people even knew his number," coach John Fox said. "One thing about injuries that does happen, they give guys opportunities. Obviously, he's young, being a rookie, but his humility and kind of how he's maintained being the same guy has been big, too. It says a lot about him, aside from all the abilities."
Quarterback Matt Barkley wasn't supposed to start any games for the Bears this season but injuries to Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer -- who passed for 302 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting -- have thrust the 26 year old into that role. Barkley only attempted 18 passes against the 49ers in the inclement weather, and completed 11 for 192 yards. But he didn't throw any interceptions after getting picked off twice in each of his first appearances this season.
"I don't think he's lacking confidence," Fox said. "I think that's evident in his style of play and kind of how he handles things. I would imagine he's a little more confident now than he was prior to his first two starts."
Cutler won't be coming back, as he was placed on injured reserve on Monday. Barkley is working with a depleted receiving corps.
Top wideout Alshon Jeffery is finishing up his four-game suspension for taking a banned substance. Eddie Royal missed the 49ers game with a toe injury and won't play Sunday. Marquess Wilson's status is questionable because of a groin injury.
The Bears will be looking to sweep the Lions for the first time since 2012.
Updated December 9, 2016