1:00 PM ET, September 29, 2013
Ford Field, Detroit, MI
While a typically opportunistic defense has paced the Chicago Bears' strong start, the Detroit Lions hope the recent injury to a key offensive starter won't prevent them from ending their recent struggles against their NFC North rival.
Looking for their first 4-0 start in seven years, the visiting Bears try to continue their success against the Lions on Sunday.
For the second time in four years, Chicago is undefeated through three games thanks to the ball-hawking approach of its defense. Major Wright returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown and Julius Peppers took a recovered fumble 42 yards for a score as the Bears forced five turnovers in a 40-23 win at Pittsburgh last Sunday.
Though the Bears are tied for 19th in scoring defense at 24.7 points per game and rank 25th in yards allowed at 383.0, they've scored three defensive touchdowns in the last two games while recovering six fumbles and intercepting five passes in 2013.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Chicago is 13-1 in games in which it's scored a defensive touchdown.
"That's what we do, we take the ball away," Peppers said. "We stress it in practice every day, and it carries over to the game ... we have to continue to do that on a weekly basis to continue to win, and I believe we'll be able to do that."
It's certainly been the case against Detroit (2-1), as Chicago has forced 27 turnovers while winning nine of 10 in the series. The Bears have recorded 14 takeaways while winning the last three matchups.
Chicago has won four of five at Ford Field, but improving to 4-0 for the first time since 2006 may not be easy after the teams' two 2012 meetings were decided by eight points.
Detroit can grab a share of the early division lead Sunday after earning its first-ever win at Washington last week, 27-20.
"The urgency is there for everybody to improve and to get the next win," coach Jim Schwartz said. "I'm certainly not downplaying the importance of any game, but we treat them all with respect and we want to win every single one.
"NFC North games mean an awful lot because No. 1, it's a chance for you to win the game, but No. 2, it's a chance to put a loss on one of your opponents without having somebody else have to help you do it. They're certainly important. I'm not up here to tell you it's not."
Lions running back Reggie Bush said he'll return from a knee injury that forced him to miss last week's game. He totaled 260 yards and a touchdown in the first two contests.
Bush's return could boost an already potent offense that ranks fourth in the NFL with 410.7 yards per game and sixth at 27.3 points a contest.
That unit, however, suffered a blow this week when it lost receiver Nate Burleson.
The veteran, who has a team-leading 19 receptions for 116 yards and made six catches against the Redskins, suffered a broken arm in a single-car accident early Tuesday when he reached over to keep two pizza boxes from falling off the front passenger seat.
"It's tough," said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has thrown for 1,020 yards with six TDs and two interceptions. "He's been a big part of our team since he's been here."
The Lions may have to rely more on second-year receiver Ryan Broyles, who made three catches for 34 yards Sunday in his first game since suffering a season-ending knee injury in December. Broyles had three catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in Detroit's 13-7 loss at Chicago on Oct. 22.
Burleson's absence likely means more defensive attention on Calvin Johnson, who has 13 receptions for 231 yards and three TDs in the past two games.
Johnson would likely be covered by star cornerback Charles Tillman, but Tillman is hampered by knee and groin issues that sidelined him late last week and is listed as questionable.
Those injuries could prove significant, as Tillman has helped limit Johnson to 15 catches, no TDs and an average of 62.3 yards in the teams' last three meetings.
The Bears announced Monday that starting defensive tackle Henry Melton will undergo season-ending knee surgery.
Jay Cutler turned in an efficient performance against the Steelers, going 20 of 30 for 159 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. His 67.3 completion percentage and 94.2 passer rating are career highs and he's been sacked only three times this season, though two of those came last week.
He's posted a 108.8 rating while throwing seven touchdowns and no interceptions to go 3-1 at Detroit since joining the Bears.
Teammate Matt Forte rushed 46 times for 219 yards and a TD in the last two games at Ford Field.
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|Avg Points Allowed||28.5||25.3|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||CHI|
|Rush Yds Allowed||CHI|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Chicago leads 17-9|
|Dec 30, 2012||CHI 26, @DET 24|
|Oct 22, 2012||CHI 13, DET 7|
|Nov 13, 2011||CHI 37, DET 13|
|Oct 10, 2011||CHI 13, @DET 24|
|Dec 5, 2010||CHI 24, @DET 20|
|Sep 12, 2010||CHI 19, DET 14|
|Jan 3, 2010||CHI 37, @DET 23|
|Oct 4, 2009||CHI 48, DET 24|
|Nov 2, 2008||CHI 27, DET 23|
|Oct 5, 2008||CHI 34, @DET 7|
|Oct 28, 2007||CHI 7, DET 16|
|Sep 30, 2007||CHI 27, @DET 37|
|Dec 24, 2006||CHI 26, @DET 21|
|Sep 17, 2006||CHI 34, DET 7|
|Oct 30, 2005||CHI 19, @DET 13|
|Sep 18, 2005||CHI 38, DET 6|
|Dec 26, 2004||CHI 13, @DET 19|
|Sep 12, 2004||CHI 16, DET 20|
|Nov 9, 2003||CHI 10, @DET 12|
|Oct 26, 2003||CHI 24, DET 16|
|Nov 24, 2002||CHI 20, DET 17|
|Oct 20, 2002||CHI 20, @DET 23|
|Dec 30, 2001||CHI 24, @DET 0|
|Dec 2, 2001||CHI 13, DET 10|