Time for Lions to Protect Home Turf

Any team worth its salt realizes they have to protect their home turf. For the Detroit Lions (1-4), Sunday's test against the limping Chicago Bears (2-3) is a perfect time for them to write a chapter in history of Ford Field. Lions' insider Mike Fowler gives an in-depth analysis of Sunday's contest against Chicago.

Detroit Lions (1-4) vs Chicago Bears (2-3)
Ford Field, Detroit, MI 1:00pm EST

(ALLEN PARK, MI) -- Any team worth its salt realizes they have to protect their home turf. For the Detroit Lions, Sunday's test against the limping Chicago Bears is a perfect time for them to write a chapter in history of Ford Field.

If Detroit can successfully defend their home turf against Chicago, it will go a long way towards giving Ford Field the reputation as the proverbial "snake pit", "the jungle", or in other words, a tough place to play.

Detroit already has an improbable win against the New Orleans Saints (4-1), a team many are stamping as the best team in the NFL right now, in Ford Field.

So Sunday's contest against the Bears gives Detroit a good chance to bounce back after a tough road loss (31-24 at Minnesota) last week.

While the Lions have suffered with various injuries throughout the season, it is possible that the Bears have even more injuries that the Lions. Starting quarterback and former Lion Jim Miller may not even start the ball game. Miller did not practice yesterday, the day when most teams begin game planning for Sunday contest.

Instead, backup Chris Chandler got most of the snaps, but the Bears say that won't affect their ability to execute. "Chris has been around and he's a seasoned veteran," said Bears wide receiver Marty Booker. "It's no different. We've just got to adjust. Chris throws a very catchable ball."

Indeed, Chandler was one of the NFL's highest rated quarterbacks in his tenure in Atlanta before he was released to make room for rising young star Michael Vick.

The Bears wide receiving corps is also banged up. Impact receiver David Terrell is gone for up to eight weeks after having surgery to insert a screw into his broken right foot.

Left guard Rex Tucker is out for the season with a dislocated left ankle and the offensive line is in disarray. Guard Mike Gandy, who was nearly traded in the off-season for Washington's Patrick Ramsey, will likely get his first start in place of Tucker. Rookie Marc Columbo will draw the unenviable task of taking on Robert Porcher at tackle.

The offensive line woes are likely a big part of the reason Bears' running back Anthony Thomas hasn't been about to get the "A" Train on track. Thomas is averaging just under 3.0 yards per carry and is way off the pace of his great rookie year last season. Thomas has been held to 50 yards or less in three of the Bears five games. That seems to be just what the doctor ordered for a Lions defense that ranks dead last overall in the NFC.

Offensively, Lions rookie quarterback Joey Harrington ought to be able to do some damage against the Bears banged up defense.

Linebacker Warrick Holdman is out for the season and key contributors Phillip Daniels (DE) and cornerback R. W. McQuarters are less than 100%. Without defensive tackle Ted Washington to keep opposing linemen out of his way, pro-bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher has been less effective than last year.

Detroit could get back wide receiver Germane Crowell for the first time this season. Crowell, who has been nursing injuries to his ankle and foot, practiced with the team yesterday for the first time this season and appeared strong.

Detroit could get back wide receiver Germane Crowell for the first time this season. Crowell, who has been nursing injuries to his knee, practiced with the team yesterday for the first time this season and appeared strong.

"There's a possibility [he could play]," said coach Marty Mornhinweg. "It's a long week though and t's still very early. The first thing is how it eacts to oday's work. We'll just keep progressing him if verything goes well."

"He's a big target. I've never thrown to a guy hat size before," said Lions quarterback Joey Harrington." From what I've heard he can run a little bit too. I'm excited to get him back in uniform and it's nice to see him out here practicing."

But Detroit may not have tight end Mikhael Ricks, who has been a pleasant surprise. Coach Marty Mornhinweg called it a "longshot" that Ricks would play on Sunday. Detroit also learned they will be without the services of Bill Schroeder, who suffered a torn hamstring, so the return of Crowell couldn't come at a better time.

Detroit should stay with its running game a little longer than they have. While Coach Mornhinweg has stated he didn't want to get conservative against a high-scoring Vikings team, running back James Stewart is averaging over 4 yards per carry and in the 4th quarter his average goes up to around 5.0 per.

The Lions ought to ride this horse a little longer than they have by spreading out the Bears with four and five receiver sets and running Stewart though the middle of the depleted Bears defense.

That sets up play-action where Harrington can look for Az Zahir Hakim, Scotty Anderson and Crowell.

ANALYSIS: Detroit plays well when they feed on the emotion and the energy of their home crowd. With Chicago limping in here, Detroit has a great chance to get its second win of the season. Beware though! Chicago's Chris Chandler can be tough to stop if he gets on a roll. One of the more accurate passers in the league, he has Booker, the NFC leading receiver to throw to. Detroit will have to get pressure on Chandler to prevent him from picking apart its secondary.
PICK: Detroit 27 - Chicago 20


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