With Mitch Trubisky either on the sideline or playing through a shoulder injury, the Chicago Bears will look to run the football. That may be an issue against the Detroit Lions improved running attack
When the Detroit Lions played the Chicago Bears just over a week ago, I predicted a Jordan Howard 100 yard rushing game. Detroit had been giving up 100-yard rushing games to everyone; it was their big weakness, of course Jordan Howard would add to the mix.
However, Howard had just 11 rushes for 21 yards. Was it a Tarik Cohen game? Nope. Seven for 15 from the speedy back. So, what happened?
The Detroit Lions had traded for Damon Harrison the week before. In his second game, an impact against the run was felt. Last week, in his third game, they took on a Carolina Panthers rushing attack that was one of the best in the NFL.
However, Christian McCaffery was able to compile just 53 yards on 13 carries. They shut down the Panthers in the area where they are at their best and got the upset.
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Check the play here. Harrison is defending the goal line against McCaffrey. He is able to get his arm extended on the left guard and keep him at a distance as he takes on McCaffrey and stuffs him a yard short of the goal line. This is a touchdown in the first eight weeks of the Lions season.
This play perfectly illustrates the value of Harrison. He is taking on a double team of Ryan Kalil and Trai Turner. Those are the two best Panthers offensive lineman with multiple Pro Bowls shared between the two. They are dedicating all of their best blocking resources to getting a decent push on Harrison off of the line. Harrison gets Kalil down and fends off Turner to make the tackle. This is serious strength.
The difference is in the tape and the number. The Lions have been a completely different team with Harrison.
Harrison has played 102 snaps for the Lions this season. On those snaps, they allowed 2.7 yards per carry, 35% of runs to grade successful, and a 0% explosive run rate with teams running at his on 68 of those snaps.
In the 444 snaps that he has not played for the Lions, 50.5% of runs are graded successful. That includes a 4.9% explosive run rate and 5.6 yards per carry.
The Lions were terrible in this area, Harrison came in, and the Lions became good in this area.
This will be fascinating to watch on Thursday with the news of Mitch Trubisky and his shoulder. If Trubisky plays, they will lean on the run to ease his shoulder on a short week. If he sits, they will lean on the run with a backup.
However, this is the newfound strength of the Lions. Time will tell if the Bears can break the Lions, or if they can get their quarterback in a comfortable spot to throw the ball.