Notebook: Strategy and Personnel

In a very fluid process, the Bears are still searching for the best five players along the offensive line, plus player notes, an injury report, matchups to watch and more.

The Bears continued to play musical chairs on the offensive line last Sunday, when Lance Louis, who had missed the past two games with a sprained ankle, was forced back into the lineup.

As with most things O-line related, it wasn't a simple process. Louis first stepped in for right guard Chris Spencer late in the first quarter when he sustained an injury to his right hand. Spencer, who took over when Louis was injured in the season opener, returned to start the second half. At the same time, right tackle Frank Omiyale was benched in favor of Louis, who has never started a game at tackle in the NFL or at San Diego State.

"I was practicing at tackle this week," Louis said. "I started out kind of slow; everything was moving fast. I just stuck with it and tried to do the best I could."


OL Lance Louis
Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

Despite the lineup juggling, the Bears rushed for a season-high 224 yards, the most by the Bears in more than 23 years. In their first three games, the Bears had rushed for a total of just 161. Matt Forte accounted for 205 on 25 carries, averaging 8.2 yards per try, a week after picking up 2 yards on 9 carries.

"We were just looking for the best combination that's working," said Bears coach Lovie Smith, whose team came into the game ranked No. 31 in the NFL in rushing yards. "That group was what we felt most comfortable with at the end."

The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Louis, who enrolled at San Diego State as a tight end, said he's OK playing anywhere.

"I just want to be on the field," he said. "I'm just happy I'm back. I just love playing."

PLAYER NOTES

--PK Robbie Gould is 22-for-24 on FG attempts lifetime against the Lions, and he is 8-for-8 overall this season.

--DE Julius Peppers has nine sacks and four forced fumbles in just six career games against the Lions. He also knocked Lions QB Matthew Stafford out for several weeks last season with a shoulder injury.

--RB Matt Forte has six touchdowns, three rushing and three receiving, in six games against the Lions. He has rushed for 498 yards with a 5.2-yard average and caught 19 passes for 259 yards and a 13.6-yard average.

--QB Jay Cutler has a 112.0 passer rating in five games vs. the Lions with nine TD passes and just one interception.

--WR Johnny Knox has just 12 receptions, but he's averaging 19.8 yards per catch, although he has yet to score.

INJURY IMPACT

--S Chris Harris remains iffy after aggravating his hamstring injury when he practiced on Sept. 28. He has not played since the season opener.

--OT Gabe Carimi (partially dislocated knee cap) is not close to returning yet. Worst-case scenario is he sits until after the bye week and returns Nov. 7 against the Eagles.

--OG Chris Spencer is not expected to miss time with a small fracture in his right hand. He missed the second quarter last week but returned for the second half.

--TE Matt Spaeth is expected back at practice this week after missing Week Four with a calf injury.

--WR Earl Bennett (bruised chest) has missed two games but could be back at practice this week.


CB Charles Tillman
Brian D. Kersey/Getty

GAME PLAN

The facts are overwhelmingly in favor of the Bears running the ball early and often, but with offensive coordinator Mike Martz calling the plays, that doesn't necessarily mean the ground game will be featured. Still, the Bears have won the last 10 games in which they've run the ball 27 or more times and they've lost the last 7 times they ran it 20 times or fewer.

Defensively, the Bears will match 6-foot-2 CB Charles Tillman against the Lions' 6-foot-5 WR Calvin Johnson and give him safety help over the top, especially in the red zone. The Bears must get more production from a defensive line that has neither rushed the passer very effectively nor stopped the run.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Bears RG Chris Spencer or RG Lance Louis and C Roberto Garza vs. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh.

Bears DRE Julius Peppers, who has nine sacks in six games vs. the Lions, vs. Detroit's OLT Jeff Backus.

Bears RB Matt Forte, whose 634 yards from scrimmage are second best in the NFL, vs. a Lions defense that allows 113 rushing yards per game.


Bear Report: The only publication exclusively dedicated to your Chicago Bears.


Bear Report Top Stories