The surest and the quickest way for the Bears to undo all the good they accomplished with Sunday night's victory over the Eagles is to underestimate the Lions on Sunday in Detroit.
Granted, the 0-3 Lions are well on their way to an eighth straight losing season, including seven with double-digit defeats. But recent history says the Bears will regret taking lightly the perennial NFC North doormats, who swept them last season.
In the first 2007 meeting, the Bears were poised to even their record at 2-2 when they led the Lions 13-3 after three quarters at Ford Field. But 34 fourth-quarter points by the home team sent the Bears home on the short end of a 37-27 score and with a 1-3 record.
Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye well remembers that defeat, which he says will prevent him from looking past the Lions.
"I know I won't," he said. "Last year they beat us two times, and that's the kind of thing that we need to remember. You can't look at it like they're 0-3. Last year we had a lead in the third quarter, and they came back and scored like 100 points or something and beat us. So we have a bad taste in our mouths after last season, and hopefully all of us will remember that."
After that loss, the Bears managed to regroup, defeating the Packers in Green Bay and turning in an inspiring performance to defeat the Eagles 19-16 in Philadelphia to get back in the race at 3-4. But just like this year, they faced Detroit the following week, and the Lions came into Soldier Field and won 16-7 – leaving the Bears at 3-5 and dead in the water.
At 2-2, the Bears don't have the luxury of savoring the Sunday night prime-time victory or looking beyond the game at hand, but a victory over the Lions could build momentum for a long win streak. The next week they face a beatable Falcons team in Atlanta, then they come home to host the struggling Vikings and, after an off week, get the Lions again at home. A 6-2 record at the halfway point is within their grasp.
"For us, it's just about the next game," head coach Lovie Smith said. "This team swept us last year, so we know what they're capable of doing. I know what their record says right now, but the season is still young. After one quarter [of the season], what can you really tell about how good a football team anyone really is?"
Players, for the most part, are maintaining a realistic perspective. They knew beating the Eagles was huge, but they don't seem to be satisfied. They're confident but not cocky, having the fresh memory of blowing two winnable games.
"We've played good enough to be 2-2, but a play here and a play there we could very easily be 4-0," defensive end Alex Brown said. "We've just got to keep working. We're sitting in good shape [considering] we haven't played very well. We believe we've got a really good team here, but we've just got to get rid of the mistakes."
Tripping over the Lions would be a mistake from which the Bears might not be able to recover.
Notes & Quotes
But Orton has also tossed four interceptions and been sacked seven times in the past two games, and he said the key to making big plays while avoiding turnovers is execution.
"The touchdown passes I had, it wasn't like I was overly aggressive," Orton said. "I threw it to the right guy, and I made the play. On the turnovers, we've just got to make the right decision. So we've addressed it and are moving on."
Success on offense is as simple as sticking to the plan according to offensive coordinator Ron Turner, but that plan requires Orton to make the right decisions based on what the defense shows.
"It's just continuing to run our offense the way we run it and have him continue to make good reads," Turner said. "Protect for him, run the football – just do all the things that we do and try to get in some rhythm." …
With starting cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher both missing practice Wednesday because of injuries, there is concern, especially considering the talents of Lions wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams, who have combined for 25 catches, 389 yards and three touchdowns in just three games.
Johnson, at 6-5 and 239 pounds, has 17 receptions for 276 yards and two TDs. Johnson and Williams (6-3, 211) are two of the biggest wide receivers in the NFL, and Williams is one of the more talkative.
"Peanut is my guy, and he lucked out that he doesn't get to play against us if he doesn't play," Williams said. "He's a heck of a player. He's one of my 'homies' in the NFL, a great competitor, a great guy that I love to go against twice a year. So I'm looking forward to that challenge, but if he can't go, we're going to have to exploit the next corner."
The Bears' "next corner" is Corey Graham, who, in his second season, has earned playing time in the starting lineup in place of Vasher.
"Wow. Is that what he said?" Graham said when told of Williams' comments. "That's big. That's the first time I heard that one. Well, we know Roy's going to be getting the ball if Tillman doesn't play, so you've just got to go out there and compete and hopefully it gives me more of an opportunity to get my hands on the ball. You want to do well no matter what, but it's good to hear things like that."
Knowing Williams' gift of gab, Graham wasn't surprised by his confident talk.
"He's a big-time receiver," Graham said. "He's got to think like that." …
Brandon Lloyd, the Bears' leading receiver, left last week's game in the second quarter with a sprained knee and did not return. Lloyd did not practice Wednesday but didn't seem to consider the injury very serious.
"It's a long season, so it's not the end of the world," he said after Wednesday's practice. "I don't want to miss any time. I want to be out there with the guys and I feel like they need me out there, so I kind of feel like I'm letting them down by not being out there. I'm just trying to do everything I can to get back as soon as possible but still be smart about it." …
Part of what has helped Orton perform as well as he has so far is his ability to handle success and failure with the same level-headed demeanor that has impressed teammates and coaches.
"Once he was named the starter, he took the reins and has been riding ever since," tight end Desmond Clark said. "One thing that me and a couple of guys talked about is that when you look at him, you never see him get shaken. He's taken some big hits, he's taken some big sacks, he's had a couple of bad plays, but he's always the same guy coming back into the huddle.
"You never really see him questioning what he's doing or what we're doing as an offense. There's always a whole lot of confidence."
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