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|The Bears-Lions rivalry has become must-see TV because of the intensity.|
CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned following the Chicago Bears' 37-13 rout of the Detroit Lions:
1. A bitter rivalry is brewing: I take issue with Detroit's style of play (which will be explained later), but the bad blood between the two teams is outstanding. You're supposed to dislike teams in your own division. It's what makes the Bears vs. Packers contests -- and up until recently the Bears vs. Vikings games -- so much fun for the fans. Now you can circle the two Lions games on your calender every year as must-see television as long as Ndamukong Suh is wearing Honolulu blue. Beating Detroit has always been common place for Lovie Smith (10-5 lifetime), but I can't remember a single win over the Lions in the past eight years that felt more important. You know it's a grudge match when a starting quarterback pulls a shady move like Matthew Stafford did against D.J. Moore. How often does that happen?
2. Charles Tillman is playing at a Pro Bowl level: Without question, Charles Tillman has played at an elite level the past few weeks from his cornerback spot. It's been impossible to overlook Tillman's blanket coverage and solid run support during the Bears four-game winning streak. You're doing something right when Calvin Johnson is limited to seven catches for 81 yards on 19 targets. Tillman's 44-yard interception return for a touchdown put an exclamation point on what was an excellent performance by the Bears' defense, which forced a mind boggling six turnovers on the afternoon. We talk a lot about Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers (rightfully so), but be sure to include Tillman in the group of veteran players who are aging gracefully. That didn't always appear to be the case for Tillman, who suffered his share of injuries, but his play at corner the last season and a half is contributing factor to the Bears' 18-9 overall record during that span.
3. Devin Hester took one for the team: A sore left ankle, plus an illness, forced Hester to miss practice the entire week leading up to the Lions game. Somewhere Allen Iverson is smiling on the topic of practice. Simply put, teams are crazy to keep kicking to Hester. His 82-yard punt return touchdown effectively ended the game when the Bears went up 20-0 in the second quarter. He almost broke his other two returns for scores then left the game for an IV and much needed rest. Hester should be fine when the Bears face San Diego at Soldier Field a week from Sunday. I can't say the same for the Chargers if they, in fact, decide to kick to the greatest return man in the history of the game.
4. You can never get too comfortable on the offensive line: Just when it seemed the Bears had finally found its starting five offensive linemen for the rest of the season, Chris Williams is lost for the year with a dislocated wrist, an injury similar to the one Brian Urlacher suffered in Week 1 of the 2009 season versus Green Bay. Luckily, reserve guard Edwin Williams brings a little experience to the table, so perhaps the drop off inside won't be too great. Wouldn't it be nice if Chris Williams can come back from his wrist injury like Brian Urlacher did in 2010.
5. We appear to be witnessing the annual Lions' slide: When was the last time Detroit played in a postseason game? Oh yeah, January 8, 1999. All the late hits, dirty play, trash talk and false bravado can't change the fact Detroit has lost three of four and is trending downward in the NFC. Maybe the Lions should win a playoff game for the first time in 12 years before they act like Super Bowl champs. Every good team plays with toughness, aggressiveness and confidence, but Detroit is reckless, which is a clear reflection -- not to mention an indictment -- of their head coach Jim Schwartz. Right now, it's starting to look like the same old Lions. Great start. Poor finish. The one difference is this group has the talent to right the ship, but until they clean it up, I suspect it won't happen.