Five things to watch as the Detroit Lions face the Bears on Saturday

Lions won first meeting, 27-24

While the Chicago Bears have just won four games, they play tough. The Lions discovered that in their first meeting on Nov. 19. The Lions won 27-24 thanks to a last-minute 52-yard Matt Prater field goal.

On Saturday they meet again at Ford Field at 4:30 p.m.

It’s a huge game for the Lions (7-6) who must win to keep any playoff hopes alive. They know they cannot take the Bears (4-9) lightly.

The Bears have defeated the Steelers, Panthers and Ravens — three teams that have beaten the Lions.

“They run the ball as well as anybody that we’ve seen to date. What they were able to do against us, what they were able to do last week, they’re blocking extremely well up front,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said on Thursday.

“The backs are running extremely hard and with that, they’re doing a nice job in terms of mixing that with their play actions and so it keeps a lot of teams off balance when you got to be concerned about the run,’’ Caldwell said. “The upfield sort of a push is not as prevalent, but then also they’re keeping things within range just in terms of they gain so many yards on first down, they never get in to a whole lot of third down and long situations where your protection is challenged.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Here are five things to watch when the Lions play the Bears:

1. Stop Bears running back Jordan Howard who had 125 yards on 15 carries in the first meeting. He’s not a one-man band, Tarik Cohen is a handful too. The Bears ran for 222 yards in that game, compared to 65 for the Lions. “(Howard) had good games against us, he’s a good runner, he’s got really good vision, runs behinds his pads. I mean, even the big run he had in the first game it looked all bottled up, and he just had a little patience, and then it opened up and he went,’’ defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “The other guy’s (Cohen) a hard tackle. He’s not a big guy, but he is shifty, a hard tackle.’’

2. Ameer Abdullah is expected to return after missing two games with a neck injury. He felt he was ready to go last week but he was not active. Theo Riddick had just 29 rushing yards in the win at Tampa Bay last week but he ran in for a pair of touchdowns. Rookie Tion Green has shown flashes. “So, we got some getting better to do when we run the football, but I’m excited to get Ameer back on the field. He’s a good football player, and we like good football players,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said.

3. Matthew Stafford needs a solid game like he had in the first meeting (299 passing yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions). At least Cooter stayed with the pass last week with 44 pass attempts and 18 carries. “ I thought we had some success throwing the ball last week. I would like to have more success when we run it. That would be beneficial to our offense and our team for sure. So, we would like to be more successful, more efficient running the football,’’ Cooter said without giving away any of his secrets.

4. Rattle the rookie. Pressure quarterback Mitchell Trubisky who is “much improved” in recent weeks according to Austin. “I thought he was outstanding last week the way he played, I thought he had really good command of the offense,’’ Austin said of Trubisky. “He made all the throws he needed to make, he was sharp, he was accurate, he was decisive with the ball. So, I think he’s really improved since the first time we played him.”

5. Get off to a good start. In the first meeting, the Bears took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. The Lions were able to fight back for a win but it wasn’t easy.

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Bears 21

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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