NFL Wire News

Lions’ offense missing its roar

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The Sports Xchange

DETROIT — The Detroit Lions still haven’t figured out the best way to move the ball effectively five games into the season. They rank 30th in points per game and have scored more than 17 points in a game just once, and they rank 26th in yards per game.

Against the Chicago Bears (2-3), the Lions (0-5) hope to get their offense in rhythm for the first time since scoring 21 in the first half of Week 1, particularly in the run game against a Chicago defense that’s allowing 118.8 yards rushing per game, ranking 24th.

“We had some good spurts here and there, it’s just a matter of putting it all together,” Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson said of the run game. “This is a great opportunity for us this week, I believe, just from watching some film.”

Unfortunately, there’s a cloud hanging over the Lions as they wait to see how quarterback Matthew Stafford responds after being benched last week. He said his relationship with coach Jim Caldwell, who made the decision, is fine, and the move hasn’t made him think about his future.

In the Lions’ 42-17 loss to the Cardinals last week, Stafford threw three interceptions before Caldwell pulled him midway through the third quarter.

“I can’t worry about the long term,” Stafford said. “I just can worry about the immediate future and trying to play as good as I possibly can on Sunday. Winning takes care of a lot of things. We haven’t done it this year and that’s been the biggest issue. I can obviously play better, and that’s what I’m focused on right now is just trying to play as good as I can possibly can on Sunday.”

Several Lions players said this week that Caldwell has not lost the locker room despite the 0-5 start. They also recognize the seriousness of Caldwell practicing what he preaches with regards to accountability after the Stafford benching.

The players, and Caldwell, expect Stafford to bounce back in what will be his 70th straight regular-season start.

“Everybody’s different, and I think you guys … probably know how tough Matthew is mentally, and Matthew bounced right back,” said Caldwell. “To be honest with you, we had a couple of discussions, which you have to do. You better have some communication with that guy, particularly as a head coach with the quarterback. So he and I sat down, we talked, we talked a couple of times and he’ll be fine.”

And Stafford said the best way to work through the problems is focusing on what the team can do to end the losing streak.

“We’ve got plenty of people trying to pull us apart from the outside, so we’re going to stick together, be a tight knit group and that’s what is going to get us through it,” he said.

SERIES HISTORY: 171st regular-season meeting. Bears lead series, 96-69-5. The Lions won four straight against the Bears for the first time since 1971-73, when they won five straight.

GAME PLAN: After allowing 187 rushing yards to the Cardinals last week, the Lions must focus on stopping the run Sunday. Bears running back Matt Forte leads the NFL with 438 rushing yards while the Lions rank 27th in run defense, but if they can limit Forte and make quarterback Jay Cutler lead the Bears, the Lions defense should be able to create some turnovers.

On offense, the Lions must establish the run game, but the best way to do that is to take some shots down the field early. The Bears secondary is suspect, and if the Lions can create some deep plays, which they haven’t this year, then the offense could start to find its groove.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

Lions right defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who is tied for the NFL lead with five sacks, vs. left offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod, who missed the last two games due to a concussion.

Lions linebackers and safeties, who have allowed four touchdowns to tight ends this year, vs. Bears tight end Martellus Bennett, who has 28 catches for 233 yards and two touchdowns this year.


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