The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions will kick off their seasons in the Motor City, desperately hoping to bounce back from disappointment.
Chicago’s quest seems a little less challenging.
The Bears did win eight games last year, but missed the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years. Chicago failed to follow up successfully on coach Matt Nagy’s debut season in which he led the franchise to 12 wins and the NFC North title. A shaky offense, ranked No. 29 in the league, was the the Bears’ biggest problem.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will have a chance to turn around the offense after holding off 2018 Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles to keep his job.
Nagy insisted he won’t be itching to make a change under center, but will if Trubisky isn’t helping the team score touchdowns.
“If that time ever comes down the road, it comes, but our focus isn’t there,” Nagy said.
The Lions, meanwhile, closed 2019 with nine straight setbacks to finish with three victories in the franchise’s worst season in a decade. And if general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patrica don’t at least help the team contend for a spot in the playoffs, they probably won’t be back in 2021.
Detroit hired Cory Undlin as defensive coordinator and added several veterans in the offseason to help a unit that ranked No. 31 in the NFL.
“We know what the Lions were last year, but we’re here to change that,” said Detroit defensive tackle Nick Williams, who had a career-high six sacks in Chicago last season.
Here are some other things to watch on Sunday at Ford Field:
Adrian Peterson is expected to be in Detroit’s backfield just four days after his first practice with the team.
The four-time All-Pro running back was cut by Washington after rushing for 898 yards last season and chose to reunite with Detroit’s offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, whom he played for in Minnesota a decade ago.
“I’m excited to be back in the NFC North to play against some familiar foes, including the Vikings twice,” Peterson said.
The 35-year-old Peterson is 1,053 yards behind Lions great Barry Sanders for fourth on the NFL career rushing list. It is unclear what his role will be as he shares time in Detroit with running backs Kerryon Johnson, rookie D’Andre Swift and Ty Johnson.
The Bears are 4-0 against Detroit under Nagy, who is in his third year of leading an NFL team, as is Patricia.
Trubisky has had a lot to do with tilting the series Chicago’s way. He threw three touchdown passes in each of the last three games, which led to three of his top six passer ratings.
The Bears acquired Foles from Jacksonville for a fourth-round pick in the hopes he would at least contend for the starting job. Receiver Allen Robinson, though, wasn’t surprised Trubisky will start Week 1.
“When you put in the work, you get the results,” Robinson said. “And I saw a lot of the work that he put in from February, March and even some probably before that.”
Detroit will not have fans at its first two home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the parents of Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson are still coming to town.
“They’re doing the same routine,” Hockenson said. “They’re going to hang out, do the whole thing and watch the game at my house. It’s always nice to be around family on game day.”
The Bears’ defense has ranked among the best the past few years. The Monsters of the Midway were not quite as dominant last season, but Nagy insisted Chicago “absolutely” has the best defense in the league.
The Bears signed outside linebacker Robert Quinn to take some attention away from star Khalil Mack, who had 8 1/2 sacks last season after four straight years in double digits. The 30-year-old Quinn had 11 1/2 sacks for Dallas last season and has 80 1-2 over his career.
“There’s a mentality to defense where it’s just this chaos,” Nagy said. “It’s ruthless, not reckless. So when you have leaders like we have on this defense and we have guys that don’t say a whole lot, they’re just ready to go cut it loose.”
ON THE MOVE
The Lions are giving three players a shot to play a new position. Return specialist Jamal Agnew is adding depth at wide receiver after being a backup defensive back. Jason Cabinda has been converted from a linebacker to fullback. Matt Nelson, a former Iowa defensive lineman, earned a spot on the team as an offensive lineman.