Behind Enemy Lines: Part I

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Nate Caminata of Roar Report, venture Behind Enemy Lines for a closer look at Sunday's contest between the Bears and Lions at Ford Field.

John Crist: The Lions lost a bunch of heartbreakers earlier in the season and seemed to be headed in the right direction, but now they've dropped their last two games by a combined 36 points. Is this team running out of gas now that it's 2-9 and destined for another wasted campaign?

Nate Caminata: It would be very difficult to argue that point, especially given the post-game, petulant remarks from Chris Houston and Corey Williams. Losing takes its toll, and combined with some close, controversial losses (Bears fans know of what I speak), I think the 2010 season has once again been one of general frustration and disappointment. The Lions understand that they're close, but consistent failure – especially playing before an audience that has come to expect it – has to yield some form of apathy.

Personally, I think this became a "wasted" campaign with Matthew Stafford's initial shoulder injury at Chicago. The season was derailed and never fully recovered.

JC: While rookie Jahvid Best got off to a terrific start and had five touchdowns in his first two games as a pro, he hasn't scored since and is now dealing with injuries. Generously listed at 5-10 and 199 pounds, is it reasonable to suggest he's too slight to be a primary ball carrier?

NC: Best was never expected to carry the load full time, but the team also didn't expect such a protracted absence from his counterpart, Kevin Smith (knee). I don't think Best's size was as much to blame as it was just bad luck, an unfortunate occurrence that seemed to hit this franchise in waves in 2010.

As they did against New England, the Lions will feature career reserve Maurice Morris and roster bubble-jumper Aaron Brown in the backfield against the Bears. Lining up behind Shaun Hill at quarterback, you can safely assume this isn't the same Lions team that Chicago struggled to defeat back in September.

JC: We know Calvin Johnson is borderline unstoppable, but the tight end duo of Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler gave Detroit fans a reason to be excited in 2010. I see they've combined for 87 catches, so have they done a good job overall taking pressure off Johnson?


TE Brandon Pettigrew
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

NC: Probably one of the bright spots and, really, a pair that would've been even more explosive if not for Pettigrew's penchant for playing hot potato with the pigskin earlier in the season. In theory, Detroit's offense can really put the ball anywhere on the field, exposing the middle with the tight ends should a defense sell out on Johnson. It is what Scott Linehan expected with the duo entering the regular season, resulting in statistical fortitude between Pettigrew and Scheffler.

Still, potential has been curbed by the aforementioned injuries. In reality, it underscores the disappointment felt in the Motor City and gives Lions fans another (legitimate) excuse to cry.

JC: The defensive line has been quite effective, in particular No. 2-overall selection Ndamukong Suh with eight sacks, although the secondary has again been an Achilles' heel in the Motor City. However, Alphonso Smith has five interceptions. Can he be a building block at corner?

NC: Judging by Smith's Thanksgiving Day nightmare, no. But he wouldn't be the first cornerback that God's Teardrop (Tom Brady) embarrassed on national television, and he has an otherwise bright future.

Smith is a former second-round pick, and Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew swindled Denver in the acquisition. Since the flame-out of Jonathan Wade, he has locked down a starting cornerback job in Detroit – maybe the first defensive back to do so in close to a decade. The Lions also like Houston on the opposite side, handing the franchise a set of quality cornerbacks. It would have been a dream scenario entering the year and one of the few silver linings in 2010.

JC: Stafford is hurt again. Best and Smith can't stay healthy. Johnson needs more help. The defense gives up a ton of points year after year. Yet another coach appears to be on the hot seat. Seriously, how do fans of this team have any faith left at this point?

NC: Great question. I often wonder whether or not they've been lulled into a state of lunacy. Or maybe it's some off-shoot of Stockholm Syndrome. If nothing else, Lions fans are probably some of the more cynical in the league, bullied by the team they love into a hardened shell, which oddly makes them capable of absorbing annual punishment.

And then there are always the Barry Sanders clips on YouTube if the anti-depressant salt lick doesn't work.

Be on the lookout Part II of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where John answers five questions from Nate, on Thursday.


John Crist is the publisher of BearReport.com. Nate Caminata is the publisher of RoarReport.com.


Lions Report Top Stories