The Chicago Bears face the Detroit Lions in Week 11, seeking their first division win since Week 12 of the 2021 season. That win came against the Lions. The two teams are on far different trajectories, however.
Justin Fields’ Return Leads 4 Things to Watch for in Week 11 vs Lions
1) ‘Consistency From Justin Fields
It is a daunting matchup for the Bears who get Justin Fields back from a multi-week, injury-related absence. Before suffering the dislocated thumb, Fields was on a two-game heater, though it came against weaker competition. That won’t be the case this week which brings us to our first thing to watch for in this game.
Because the clock is certainly ticking.
General manager Ryan Poles has always deftly stopped short of fully committing to Fields – whom he did not draft – as his long-term quarterback of the future. He has also provided a general account of what he wanted to see from Fields this season.
Unfortunately, the injury interruption reflects Fields’ onfield performance quite well: flashes of his ceiling broken up by his shortcomings and the risks that come with them.
Fields was honest earlier in the season saying that he was pressing trying to implement the coaching that he was receiving. The comments got overblown but there was a clear disconnect regardless of whether or not Fields was pointing the finger. He said after practice on Wednesday that he wasn’t out to prove anything.
Says he's not out to prove anything to anyone. He's just out to play for his teammates and coaches
— Clocker Sports (@ClockerSports) November 15, 2023
But head coach Matt Eberflus was clear that he is looking for consistency from Fields over these last seven games. That includes his play and decision-making, the coach said. It also has to include staying on the field which Fields has not done in two seasons as a starter.
Some of that was the Bears offensive scheme.
But Fields has to do a better job of getting rid of the ball and avoiding the hits that he is already prone to as a quarterback who is also dangerous with his legs.
2) Bears OL vs Lions’ Aidan Hutchison, D-Line
Fields staying upright and on the field will require some help from his offensive line which is fully healthy for the first time this season. To that point, their newfound luxury of availability has allowed them to relegate long-time starter Cody Whitehair to the bench in favor of Lucas Patrick.
Patrick has graded out worse than Whitehair this season, per Pro Football Focus, but seemed to solidify the spot in the Week 11 win over the Carolina Panthers with Whitehair at guard.
They face a daunting task in Lions EDGE Aidan Hutchison.
“He’s one of those players that takes the fight every time he hops on the field,” Braxton Jones told Clocker Sports after Friday’s practice. “He’s not going to take a down off, a play off. So I think that’s his biggest attribute: he’s always going. He makes second efforts to the quarterback, and I think – in this league it’s one of the biggest things to get sacks – that second effort is huge.”
— NFL (@NFL) September 29, 2023
“Half the time you might get stoned,” Jones said. “But once you make that second effort – and he does a lot of that. I respect him. I respect his game. And then going into this year, he’s just upped that. I feel like one of the bigger things he’s done is really clued into getting off the ball and getting off the rock and so that’s really been a big beneficiary for him and his production.”
Hutchison leads the Lions with 4.5 sacks this season. But defensive tackle Alim McNeil has 4.0 sacks and linebacker Alex Anzalone has 3.0 sacks while eight other Lions have at least 1.0 sacks this season.
The Bears offensive line will have its hands full across the board making its return to strength no small turn of events.
3) Amon-Ra St. Brown-Sam LaPorta 1-2 Combo
Detroit’s offense is diverse and quarterback Jared Goff is steady. At the top of the pecking order, however, is wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, brother of Bears wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. St. Brown leads the Lions with 87 targets, 65 receptions, and 821 receiving yards, and he is tied for the team lead with four receiving touchdowns.
“Just a quick dude,” Kyler Gordon said. “Not really a speed guy, or anything like that. But yeah I feel like they’re going to use him [to challenge us] in the intermediate route game.”
Amon-Ra untouched for the lead!
— NFL (@NFL) November 12, 2023
Gordon will see St. Brown plenty. But the wideout lines up on the outside a little bit more.
“Just the fact that he’s that go-to receiver and just knowing from this whole season that they going to try to get him on me as much as possible,” Tyrique Stevenson said. “I just got to know that, when I’m lined up on him just quick receiver, deep-threat receiver, he’s pretty much they all go-to guy. Screens and everything go to him. so just know when I’m on him just know that the ball is going to find his way towards me and I just got to make the plays that come towards me.”
Stevenson’s 73 targets in coverage lead the Bears. He is the third-most targeted defender in the entire league. He will surely see a lot of Goff’s passes on Sunday.
“St. Brown, I think, is just a fantastic player,” Eberflus said Friday. “First of all, he’s a very good football player. And then you talk about his strength and his quickness. His ability to stay open with his quickness but also be open with his strength if he is covered. And that’s really to me um is what he brings, and he’s certainly their go-to guy.”
As for LaPorta, the rookie ranks fourth among all tight ends with 47 receptions. That is one more than Bears tight end Cole Kmet. He is fifth at the position with 474 receiving yards.
Kmet – who ranks ninth with 419 yards but has one more touchdown – praised LaPorta.
“The tight end obviously is a great get for those guys, and he shows great athletic ability,” Eberflus said. “He’s got a big catch radius, allows him to stay open. But he understands the game and understands how to use his body, I think, above his years, him being a rookie. He looks like he’s, to me when I look at him, he looks like he’s a second or third-year player.”
“Two really Dynamic players at their respected positions,” said Eberflus. “Both fantastic players.”
4) David Montgomery Out for Revenge
Unfortunately, injuries robbed Sunday of one of its key reunions. The Bears announced on Friday that linebacker Noah Sewell is out with a knee injury. His brother Penei Sewell plays right tackle for the Lions and the Bears linebacker was looking forward to the matchup.
Not as much as David Montgomery, however. He made it clear that the Bears were the team he was looking forward to facing the most this season.
David Montgomery went from the Bears leading rusher to a star in rival Detroit's backfield.
One half of the two-headed monster, Montgomery is key to the 7-2 start for the Lions. pic.twitter.com/pfqdFLOzAP
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) November 17, 2023
Khalil Herbert, set to make his return from a multi-week injury absence, said he hadn’t spoken to Monty this week saying things were “all business” with a smile but calling the Lions runner his “guy” still. Between Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs, the Bears linebackers will surely have a busy day.