Two down, two to go. The Detroit Lions (8-6) kept their playoff hopes alive and took care of business, cruising past the Chicago Bears (4-10), 20-10 in the undercard of Week 15's Saturday doubleheader. Here's what we learned:
- Two weeks ago, at 6-6 following a blowout loss in Baltimore, Detroit resolved that it needed to go undefeated in its final four games to even sniff the postseason. So far, so good. The Lions mauled Chicago on Saturday afternoon, moving to 8-6 and guaranteeing consecutive seasons with a .500 record or better for the first time since 1999-2000.
The formula was familiar. Matthew Stafford (75.8 comp. pct., 237 yards, two TDs) carried an offense with an inconsistent running game via his laser arm and mobility, spreading the ball around to a bevy of targets -- seven receivers had at least three catches! No need for a fourth-quarter comeback this time, as Detroit went into the final frame with a 20-3 lead after its defense forced two Mitchell Trubisky turnovers in the third quarter.
Next up for the Lions are their fellow felines to the south, the Cincinnati Bengals, whose season is over and whose coach is fixated on his own mortality, and the Green Bay Packers. If Aaron Rodgers proves this week that he is fully healthy and ready to lead the Pack on a charge toward the postseason, it'll be hard for Detroit not to look ahead toward their Week 17 clash with their North rivals. The Lions still need a lot of help -- calling all Rams, Raiders, Buccaneers! -- to sneak into the top six, but Jim Caldwell's cats are controlling what they can control.
- This was not a good day for Detroit's injury-riddled offensive line. Already down starting center Travis Swanson and right tackle Ricky Wagner, the Lions lost guard T.J. Lang to a lingering foot injury against Chicago, rendering the right side of their offensive line scabby. The result? Stafford was sacked four times by Chicago's top-10 front seven and left the field holding his left shoulder after falling hard on a fourth-quarter QB hit. Adding injury to injury, starting running back Theo Riddick (49 yards) and wideout T.J. Jones (TD) left with respective wrist and shoulder injuries.
- We're playing the waiting game with Mitchell Trubisky. Waiting for him to put two stellar games together in a row. Waiting for the Bears to give him a larger role in the offense -- Tru's 78 attempts in two weeks say that wait is over. Waiting for the inevitable new regime to come in and transform the raw rookie's trajectory. Until then, the viewing public must take what Trubisky gives them, the good and the bad. For every tight-window conversion on third-and-18, dubbed a "big ol balls throw" by an injured teammate, there's an overambitious and costly interception, or three. The risky Trubisky finished with a fine line -- 314 yards, TD, three INTs -- but couldn't do enough to avoid yet another loss, his seventh as a starter.
"He was staring down a lot of things," Lions cornerback Darius Slay said of Trubisky's play to NBC's Heather Cox after the win. "My whole game plan was trust my first instinct and go [because he's] looking at it and that's what I did." Speaking of the corner...
- Big Play Slay continued his career year Saturday, recording his league-high sixth and seventh interceptions. Slay had six picks in his first four seasons combined, but in the second season of a four-year pact with Detroit, has developed into a ball-hawk cornerback, surrendering the 10th-worst passer rating when targeted, according to Pro Football Focus. With Glover Quin and Quandre Diggs, who had an interception of his own, his second in as many weeks, Detroit's cornerback group is one of the league's most underrated.