Bears vs Lions Notebook

Devin Hester is one of the many matchup problems that will concern the Detroit Lions during Sunday's matchup with division leader Chicago. More matchups, news and notes from the NFC North contest inside.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Coach Rod Marinelli should qualify for a degree in personnel juggling for the mixing and matching he and offensive coordinator Mike Martz have had to do on the offensive line.

They have lost three projected starters and this week lost Barry Stokes, a replacement starter who had logged time at both guard and tackle.

The loss of Stokes means the Lions will be lining up a fifth-round rookie tackle (Jonathan Scott), an undrafted rookie guard (Frank Davis) and probably a guard plucked off their practice squad (Stephen Peterman).

Martz's goal will be to put together some kind of game plan to give QB Jon Kitna a chance to get his passes off before he is trampled by the Chicago defense. The alternative is to hand the ball to RBs Arlen Harris or Aveion Cason, who have been pressed into active duty after the Lions lost their top three backs -- Kevin Jones, Shawn Bryson and Brian Calhoun -- to injuries.

GAME PLAN: Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has his hands full trying to come up with an effective offense against the NFC's No. 1 defense while fielding a lineup that includes three backup offensive linemen and a RB who was cut before the start of the regular season. His best hope is to get production out of QB Jon Kitna with WRs Roy Williams and Mike Furrey, although Kitna currently leads the league with QB sacks (55). The Lions defensive line is as badly beaten up as the offensive line. Only one projected starter -- Cory Redding -- is still able to play and he had to move from DE to DT. The Lions are particularly vulnerable against the run, a hole that coach Rod Marinelli probably won't be able to patch until next season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7-28 -- The Lions' six-season division record going into the Chicago game Sunday. That includes one division win in both 2001, '02 and '05, and two division wins in 2003 and '04. They are 0-5 so far this season against NFC North opponents.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Lions QB Jon Kitna vs. Bears DE Mark Anderson. Kitna has been sacked 16 times in the last three games and will have to be aware of Anderson, who leads the Chicago pass rusher with 10 sacks.
--Lions WR Roy Williams vs. Bears CB Charles Tillman and FS Danieal Manning. The Bears probably won't double Williams in their cover-2 defense as much as Green Bay did when they effectively took him out of the Lions offense, but both defenders pose an interception threat.
--Lions special teams vs. Bears PR/KOR Devin Hester. The Lions coverage teams have improved in the second half of the season but they face a major threat in Hester, who has three punt return TDs and two kickoff return TDs.

INJURY IMPACT: The Lions are playing with a hodgepodge on both their offensive and defensive line, with the loss of two more starters -- RT Barry Stokes and DT Marcus Bell -- to injured reserve this week. Look for coach Rod Marinelli to rotate players into the action, hoping to find an effective combination or develop experience for next season. It appears CB Fernando Bryant might be ready to return to action after missing the last two games with a concussion.

SERIES HISTORY: 154th game between the Lions and Bears in a series dating back to 1930, when the Lions were still the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans, and continuing when they moved to Detroit in 1934. The Bears hold an 86-62-5 lead in the series and have won the last three games by a combined score of 91-26.

PLAYER NOTES
--DT Marcus Bell, who had taken over the NT job since the Lions lost Shaun Rogers to a four-game suspension and then to a knee injury, was put on injured reserve with a hand injury. Anthony Bryant, signed by the Lions in late November, started in Bell's place last Sunday at Green Bay and is probable as the starter Sunday against Chicago.
--OT Barry Stokes, who started 11 games at OG and OT, was lost for the season after going on injured reserve with an ankle injury suffered in the 17-9 loss Sunday at Green Bay. Stokes was expected to start at RT the rest of the season because of the injury that put Rex Tucker on injured reserve also.
--OT Clint Stickdorn, who has spent part of the past two seasons on the Lions' practice squad, was signed to the active roster and could be used as a backup OT in the game Sunday against the NFC North-champion Chicago Bears.
--RB Lamar Gordon, a former third-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams, has been signed by the Lions as a backup RB to pick up the slack after the loss of the team's top three RBs -- Kevin Jones, Shawn Bryson and Brian Calhoun -- to injuries. Gordon would probably play behind current starter Arlen Harris.
--P Nick Harris, who battled an early season slump that saw him with eight touchbacks in the Lions' first seven games, has punted his way out of it. In the past seven games, Harris has just one touchback and has dropped eight punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line.


Lions Report Top Stories