I’ve been procrastinating. I didn’t want to do this. I really, really didn’t. But it’s time to review the Bears Watchtower:
I am extremely, extremely nervous about this game. It was a low-scoring slugfest before, despite only one turnover and four sacks between the two teams—mostly thanks to an absolutely ridiculous 26 total penalties that wiped 198 yards of combined offense off the field.
If the hankies aren’t flying this time like they were a few weeks ago, which offense benefits more? Can two teams currently ranked 1st and 7th in the NFL in turnover margin play another game without turnovers playing a significant role? I’m also haunted by one of my strongest Watchtower rules of thumb: rarely do two teams meet twice in the same season and play to the same result.
Partly because I’m so twitchy about it, I’m going to take the high end of my Bears projection and the low end of my Lions projection; I’ll say the most likely outcome of the game is a 23-21 Lions win.
Ouch. Right. Well.
The story here wasn’t the failure of the Lions defense. They allowed just 16 offensive points, 3.11 yards per carry, and 6.15 yards per attempt. In fact, that’s even better than I projected:
I project the Bears to score 17-21 points, passing for 6.50-7.00 YpA and rushing for 4.75-5.25 YpC. I have medium-high confidence in this projection.
Of course all that doesn’t matter. What matters is the dumpster fire that was the offense, and its six turnovers. The Lions scored just 13 offensive points, and passed for only 5.22 yards per attempt. They did rush for 4.22 YpC, but that doesn’t even sort of matter in the grand scheme of things.
Before this season, when Linehan has faced Lovie Smith, Linehan’s offenses tended to move the ball well—but score fewer points than expected, due to lots of turnovers. It was a really strong statistical trend—but on Monday Night Football, the Lions didn’t turn it over, so I wondered if the offense had evolved to the point that was no longer true.
Going forward, there isn’t much to take away. The two lost fumbles that ended the first two drives were total flukes—and the rest of the game, Stafford was pressing like crazy trying to get them back. The Lions need to learn from this debacle, but I’m not sure there’s much we can learn from breaking it down.