The Smith Factor

The Lions believe they have found the answer to their quarterback problem with the return of Jeff Garcia. However, Lovie Smith has had good success with limiting what three-time Pro Bowl QB has been able to do against his defense.

Over the course of Garcia's seven-year career he faced the St. Louis Rams with Smith as the defensive coordinator of the team five times. He won only one of those contests and generally saw his numbers dip.

The 49ers of a few years ago are not the same team that had the worst record in the NFL last season and are in the running to repeat the dubious distinction.

From 2001-03 San Francisco won 29 games and went to the playoffs twice, thanks in part to Garcia, who went to the Pro Bowl in each season. Still he never completed more than 19 passes against St. Louis, while connecting on only 53 percent of his attempts.

Despite having Terrell Owens as his primary target, Garcia's high for passing yards against the Rams was 222.

While Garcia had four touchdowns and four interceptions, he did hurt the defense with his feet. He averaged 6.29 yards per rush and scored three times.

Garcia still has the ability to make the defense miss, but at 35 he's not the same quarterback he was in San Francisco. Even with three former first round picks at receiver, he doesn't have a threat anywhere near what Owens brings to the table.

The Bears defense is more talented and deeper than the unit that Smith had in St. Louis. But they have to play a more mistake free brand of football because the offense in Chicago can't put points on the board as the "Greatest Show on Turf" did.

"I just see them as a very aggressive defense, a very fast defense," Garcia said. "They fly around the football and they create negative situations for offenses. They create turnovers, they create forced situations to where they take advantage of it. I just see them being highly competitive."

Making the Lions one-dimensional will be a key to stopping Garcia. In the first matchup of the season, Detroit averaged 1.6 yards on 22 carries. Getting down early coupled with the lack of success from the ground game meant Joey Harrington had to shoulder the burden of leading a comeback. He failed miserably, throwing five interceptions in the Bears 38-6 victory.

If the Bears hope to get after Garcia and test how healthy his leg is, then stopping RB Kevin Jones will be crucial. Making the Lions have to throw 35-40 times in the game will give Garcia an opportunity to make plays and also give the defense a chance to punish him over the course of the game.

"I don't feel like I'll be without pain until I've been given time to rest it in the off-season," Garcia said. "So it's just one of those things that I have to play through and try to get myself as healed up as much as possible by Sunday. Then let the adrenaline to take over and get me through the game. But it's one of those things weekly that's going to be a constant battle."

Garcia didn't post huge numbers against the Browns a week ago. He completed 22 of 34 attempts for 210 yards. No touchdowns, no interceptions. He netted only 1 yard on four rushing attempts, but his yard was the result of a dive into the end zone when he couldn't find an open receiver.

Garcia did prove that he still has the ability to make big plays with his feet and arm. He found Mike Williams for a 49-yard completion when it looked as if the Browns had him trapped for a sack, getting a 10-yard gain on a shovel pass to running back Shawn Bryson as he was being dragged down by Browns defenders, and avoiding a safety with a 10-yard throw to wide receiver Scottie Vines that allowed the Lions to run out the clock.

The six-foot-1, 200-pounder has yet to take a big hit. The Browns didn't sack him, which has proven to be a difficult task over the course of his career. He has been sacked only once every 20.8 passing attempts. The short drops of the west coast offense will also help keep the heat off Garcia.

The additional week of practice should help Garcia shake the rust of not playing for the first six weeks of the season. On the flipside, he won't have the full compliment of offensive weapons at his disposal.

Wide receiver Charles Rogers has one game left on a four-game suspension. Kevin Johnson ruptured his Achilles against Cleveland and is done for the year. Roy Williams is questionable with a quad injury that has kept him out of the last two games. Left tackle Jeff Backus is questionable with an ankle injury that could allow DE Alex Brown to register his first sack of the season.

The Bears allowed just 199 yards to Baltimore last week and in many ways that game should get them ready for Detroit. Anthony Wright is a mobile quarterback, but not the accomplished passer that Garcia is. The defense used the front four to put pressure on Wright and allowed the linebackers to take care of Jamal Lewis, who had 34 yards on 15 carries.

Putting pressure on Garcia with the defensive line will allow the rest of the unit to focus on Jones with the occasional blitz.

"As a group I think they understand their scheme very well and they have the talent within the group to make that scheme happen at a high level," Garcia said. "And they're just playing at a great level and my hat's off to them."


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