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Saturday, December 29, 2012
Week 17 Nuts & Bolts: Bears at Lions

By Michael C. Wright

CHICAGO BEARS at DETROIT LIONS

When: Noon Sunday | TV: FOX, locally: Ch. 32, WFLD-TV
RADIO: 780 AM, WBBM & 105.9 FM; WLEY (107.9 FM)

Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler and the Bears are hoping to escape Detroit with a playoff spot Sunday.

CHICAGO BEARS (9-6)



Coach: Lovie Smith | Record including playoffs: 83-66

Career record (including playoffs) vs. Jim Schwartz: 6-1 | Career record vs. Lions: 12-5

Last week: Defeated Arizona Cardinals 28-13.

Key stat: The Bears have won eight of the past nine games in this series, including a 13-7 win in Week 7 at Soldier Field. The importance of a fast start for the Bears can’t be emphasized enough. When the Bears score first, they’re 7-2 this season and 12-5 over the past two years. The Bears are 13-2 over the past two seasons when they lead after the first quarter.

Offense rank: 28th (305.3 YPG) | Defense rank: Fifth (314.9 YPG).
Brandon Marshall
Brandon Marshall has caught more than 40 percent of the Bears' receptions this season.

Offensive leader: Recently named to his fourth Pro Bowl, receiver Brandon Marshall ranks No. 2 in the NFL in catches (113), which is already a Bears franchise record, as are his 1,466 yards receiving. Given the fact that he’s caught more than 40 percent of all receptions for Chicago, the Lions know they need to take him away and force the other Bears receivers to beat them. But can they do it? Other teams have tried and failed, while a few have experienced success.

Defensive leader: Cornerback Charles Tillman was named to his second Pro Bowl earlier in the week, and is coming off a performance against Arizona in which he returned his third interception for a touchdown. Tillman will be tasked with covering Detroit record-breaking receiver Calvin Johnson, and he’s experienced plenty of success against the Lions’ top target, holding him to just three catches in the first meeting. With Chicago’s defensive line playing the way it is, Tillman’s job might be easier this game.

STREAKS



• Marshall needs one more 100-yard receiving game to take sole possession of the top spot in franchise history for the most 100-yard games in a single season. Marshall is currently tied with Jeff Graham and Harlon Hill for No. 1 on the list with seven.

• With 25 touchdowns, Matt Forte needs one more to tie Hugh Gallarneau for the fifth-most rushing TDs in franchise history.

• The Bears need one more INT return TD to tie the 1961 San Diego Chargers for the most in a single season in NFL history.

• The Bears have won seven consecutive games in which they scored at least one defensive touchdown.

DETROIT LIONS (4-11)


Coach: Jim Schwartz | Record: 22-41

Career head-to-head record vs. Smith: 1-6 | Career record vs. Bears: 1-6

Last week: Lost 31-18 to the Atlanta Falcons.

Key stat: The Detroit Lions are on pace to average more than 400 yards per game for the first time in franchise history, and are one of only two teams (New Orleans is the other) to average more than 300 yards per game through the air. The Lions rank No. 2 in total first downs (363) and seventh in third-down percentage (42.1).

Offense rank: Second (414.2 YPG) | Defense rank: 13th (337.9 YPG).
Calvin Johnson
The Lions' Calvin Johnson has a chance to post a 2,000-yard season for pass receptions.

Offensive leader: Receiver Calvin Johnson now owns the single-season record for receiving yardage (1,892 yards) and appears to have a chance to reach 2,000 yards. He can also set the NFL record for highest yards per game average set in 1961 by Charley Finnegan (124.7-yard average). Reaching those milestones won’t be a cinch, though, with Tillman set to cover Johnson.

Defensive leader: Ndamukong Suh ranks second in sacks by a defensive tackle since 2010 (21), but has shown a penchant for losing control on the field. Suh currently ranks second in sacks by a defensive tackle (seven), is tied for first with eight tackles for lost yardage on runs, and No. 2 in combined sacks and tackles for loss on rushing plays (15).

STREAKS



• The Lions have scored 19 touchdowns on their last 26 possessions in the red zone.

• With 4,695 passing yards this season, Stafford needs 305 yards to become the first quarterback in NFL history to reach 5,000 yards through the air in back-to-back seasons.

• Detroit’s offensive line leads the NFL in games started for its current team. The starting five has combined for 563 regular-season starts and five postseason starts.