Football
Tony: I’m thankful for you, King. You have bestowed upon me the right to not have to talk about the Bears for one more day, and that alone is the gravy on the turkey of my heart.
The Detroit Lions aren’t much more fun to talk about, but they have plenty to be thankful for, primarily the incredibly low bar their fans have for them. I have a friend who is a Lions fan (bless his heart), and when asked to describe the 2019 Lions, he simply said: “Every single aspect of the team has *at best* underperformed except for Matthew Stafford who through 8 games was having a career year… then he broke his back. He tried carrying this team on his back but those sacks of shit were too heavy.”
Shout out to John, who also made music back in the early aughts under the pseudonym Major Applewhite which is probably the best solo act name I’ve ever heard.
As if losing Stafford with broken bones in his back wasn’t enough, apparently Jeff Driskel is also on this week’s injury report. The Lions tried to sign Josh Johnson since he played for them in the preseason (his 13th NFL team!), and were blocked by the XFL.
Once more for emphasis: VINCE MCMAHON IS SCREWING THE DETROIT LIONS. Bret Hart must work for them or something. That’s so fucking sad I’m just gonna stop talking about it.
As it goes, I’d like to compare the Lions to a side dish that you’ll be munching on while digesting terrible football on Thursday: Green Bean Casserole. I fuck with casserole, and I think GBC is a prime one. I’ve seen a lot of people on my social media feeds ripping on GBC, and I gotta say: fuck them.
Cream of mushroom soup- decent (the Lions run defense, in theory)
Green Beans- decent (Darius Slay)
French Fried Onions- dope (your Matthews Stafford)
The Green Bean Casserole is literally more than the sum of it’s parts, a hodgepodge of shit thrown together that tastes amazing.
Fun fact: Green Bean Casserole was invented by Campbell’s in 1955.
Additional fun fact: the last Lions NFL Championship was in 1957.
One of those things sucks, and the other doesn’t.
Wes: Tony, You’re the real King for coming up with and reminding me to do these tandem matchup posts all season. I’m thankful for our weekly banter in this lost shit storm of a Bears season.
The fans around Chicago aren’t thankful for much regarding their football team, but the Bears themselves are thankful for individual stand outs and a very convoluted and confusing path to the postseason, but still a path nonetheless. Take a trip with me on that path, will you?
  • Bears win out, finishing the season with six straight victories for a 10-6 record
  • Rams, Eagles and Panthers all finish 9-7 or worse
  • Packers win the NFC North
  • Minnesota loses at least three of their remaining games, finishing 10-6 and losing the tie-breaker to the Bears on H2H wins OR Seattle loses their final five games and finishes 9-7
Phew, that’s a lot. There’s actually a way the Bears could get in at 9-7, but there are so many more specific weekly win/lose arrangements in that scenario that you’re all going to be thankful for me NOT sharing it. Just know it’s all moot if the Bears can’t string together the wins on their own, and that starts with a big statement road win in Detroilet on American turkey booze day.
The Bears also need to be thankful for a handful of stand out performers on this underachieving nightmare squad. Allen Robinson is top five at the WR position but most casual fans would probably fight you on that because he’s stuck in a poorly run offense with a struggling young QB. I shudder to consider what this all might look like without ARob in 2019.  Khalil Mack may have been absent from the stat sheet coinciding with the losing streak, but without his first few games and performance against the Giants last week (all without his pal Akiem Hicks) we’re probably talking about silver linings instead of faint playoff hopes.
Role players like Nick Kwiatkoski, Cordarrelle Patterson and Tarik Cohen (who should probably be more than a “role player”…) have helped in a big way via Special Teams, plugged holes and played the next man up role perfectly to keep things from going horrible to catastrophic. So thanks to underappreciated few.
To me, the Bears individual standouts combined with the rest of team most closely resemble Thanksgiving Stuffing (or dressing if you wanna be a weirdo about it). Stuffing always, ALWAYS, has great components within. Bread? Sausage? Celery? Sage? That’ll do it. But no two Stuffing recipes are alike, and sometimes you get dried fruit in there. Or random vegetables. Or your aunt goes wild on the seasoning. Or your lazy ass uncle bought bags of croutons that are salty as hell. Some jerks even refuse to cook at least a portion INSIDE the bird. Idiots.
The 2019 Bears are Stuffing, because for every tantalizing ingredient like Arob and Mack, there’s too much salt or someone over thought it and added raisins and cranberries and three kinds of mushrooms without considering to just build a solid base first.
Here’s to hoping your Stuffing this year goes back to basics and just makes sure it’s a delicious, not looking to do more than it needs to. I can only assume Matt Nagy’s Stuffing takes 10 hours to prep and includes no less than 70 different ingredients.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!
Football

vs.

RECORDS: Lions 3-4-1   Bears 3-5

Kickoff: 12pm

TV: CBS 2

THAT DORK LOOKS LIKE JAM: Pride Of Detroit

Do you get the impression the Bears would rather play on the road these days? A home date with the Lions should be a joyous occasion, and it usually has been in the past, but considering the air around the Bears and the suddenness with which Soldier Field can turn toxic, you really feel like the Bears had better score on their first drive or it’s going to bet poisonous in a hurry. They might be booing at the pregame tailgate. Mitch Trubisky pointing at the TVs screaming, “DEATH!!!” isn’t going to help the cause much.

So the Bears will have to turn it around against what’s normally their favorite punching bag, and really everyone’s favorite punching bag. Luckily, the Lions contain some things that could really help the Bears if they’ve conditioned themselves during the week to change. Sadly, they also contain the Bears destruction within them as well.

First the good news. As my father would say, “The Lions defense stinkums.” They’re 27th in rush yards against per game, 31st in pass yards per game against, 27th in sacks, 27th in interceptions, and 27th in points against. So yeah, you’d think with the lack of pass rush and the lack of ballhawks and the lack of linebackers total, the Bears could actually find something they could do successfully against this outfit. Whether that’s lining up in the I more often and simply running the ball, or getting to play-action off of that, or rolling Mitch out where he’s clearly more comfortable, the Lions offer a fucking buffet of things you can get to them through. Then again, the Chargers were dressing their bus driver as a d-linemen and the Bears couldn’t crack that code until late. So no guarantees here.

The Lions defense has had various problems, including health in the secondary, but this chart is pretty telling (stick-tap to Jeremy Riesman at PoD for linking it):

Brain genius with birds living in his beard, and probable rapist, Matt Patricia hasn’t been able to get any pressure from his front four and they haven’t brought much heat either to try and make up for that. So maybe the Bears offensive line can hold up against this? And give Mitch time? Which won’t cause his eyes to drop to the rush? And maybe he can just pick-and-stick some guys in the open spaces? Am I asking too much? I probably am, aren’t I? More pissing in the wind, YAY!

Of course, it’s not that simple. On the flip side of the ball, Matt Stafford is playing at a ridiculous level, which Brian laid out here. I suppose the good news, if there is any on this front, is that he’s done his best work flinging the ball deep, which is something the Bears have given up next to nothing of this year. The plan against them has always been to get it out quick to avoid Khalil Mack ending your world, and the hope would be if Stafford and the Lions insist on taking their shots that Mack and Leonard Floyd (brief flickering signs of life last week) and others can get to Stafford to either bring him down or force errant throws. Then again, Stafford’s been so good at this he might be able to find the shots others haven’t. Then it could be trouble.

But hey, more good news. The Lions can’t run the ball for shit. Have they ever? This is just like the Lions condition, right? Like the Bears and quarterbacks? The Hawks and power plays? It’s just something they’ll never do. Anyway, Ty Johnson is averaging barely 3.5 yards per carry, and they don’t even go to him much as he’s gotten over 10 carries just once this season since he took over for Kerryon Johnson, who’s on IR with knee-knack. So whereas the Chargers and Eagles and Raiders and oh fuck let’s just stop it here pretty much ran it up the Bears giggy, that’s not something the Lions are built or even motivated to try.

The things is though, the Lions are a couple inches from being 5-2-1 or even better. The refs screwed them over in Green Bay. They had a last-second loss to the Chiefs. They probably should have beaten the Raiders last week. So they have just as much reason to look at the Bears and think they can get healthy against them as the Bears do looking the other way. Other than Mack, who will be heavily watched, Stafford is the best player on the field and is capable of winning this on his own given the right breeze.

Still, the Bears are basically built to not have a quarterback beat them. Yeah, sure, the defense hasn’t gotten the big stops they’ve needed the past two games, and even Denver drove right down the field against them in the 4th. But a lot of that was predicated on rushing attacks, which the Lions just don’t have. And does Stafford really have the patience to five- and six-yard outlet his way down the field? He might, but you have to feel there’ll be a shot or two that Eddie Jackson or Kyle Fuller can get their hands on.

So if they can keep Stafford from going power cosmic, you have to believe the Bears offense will find SOMETHING against this team. Maybe not 35 points something, but like 24? Detroit has given up 23 or more points in every game save one. The fucking Giants hung 31 on them. If Daniel Jones can go for 322 yards against this collection of lost souls, surely Mitch can have at least a decent game? Right? Right?!

This is it for the Bears, this next month. They get the Lions twice and the Giants, and a Sunday night in LA. Win those three and sneak some weird victory out of the Coliseum (where they come to see ’em), and the season isn’t lost. Hell, just take the three you’re supposed to and you’re 6-6 with at least something to hope for in December. But it has to start with one. If you can’t get this one, it’s pack up the cats time.

Football

Welcome back to THE VAULT, my weekly “REMEMBER THIS IRRELEVANT BEAR” article where I threaten Fels that I’ll go be a scab for Deadspin if he doesn’t let me write 750 words about Johnny Knox. For what it’s worth, he didn’t get mad when I wrote an entire article about weed so I think I’m earning the coveted “Respected Journalist” title. I’ll be angling for a press pass so I can get into Halas Hall and score some free lunch and yell stats at the players I love. I got to go to Halas Hall in early 2018 and lemme tell you, I INSTANTLY found a pic of Corey Wooton sacking Brett Favre on what would be the last play of his pro career and was high on fumes for days after.

Today we’re going to hop back into the time machine and look at the second Bears/Lions matchup of 2011. I was fortunate enough to be at this game, a Bears win (37-17). I was at this game and in a weird place emotionally, since this ticket was originally promised to a friend who beat brain cancer, only to have that cancer reemerge months later and take his life. On top of that, Bears tickets had run in my family since the early early Soldier Field days, but they were sold in 2009, so this was my first Bears game since then and also my first Bears game with friends instead of my father. My dad was in recovery for alcoholism growing up (proud of you, pops) so I never drank at a Bears game, so even though I was 25 this was my first experience with two things central to the Bears gameday experience:

1. The $9, 8oz beers at Soldier Field
2. Tailgating next to racists

For real, I was drinking in the parking lot with some friends and there were Lions fans next to us, and at one point the guy leaned in close to ask me a question, the type of gesture that coming from a stranger usually means they’re about to say something racist or ignorant. He leaned in, smelling of Busch Light and Faygo (probably) and asked me where all the black people were. He was confused when I gestured broadly at the city of Chicago surrounding us, and he specified that he was talking about people who go to tailgates and collect cans for the return deposit. I hit him with a Big Lebowski line: “obviously you’re not a golfer” and that was the end of our conversation. He walked away and I finally saw the name plate on his apparently custom Lions #40 jersey, and it read simply “Kid Rock” and everything made sense. Say what you will about Juggalos, but when it comes to hanging in parking lots with people from Michigan I’d take a bunch of face-painted clowns who will talk to me about pro wrestling over the average Kid Rock fan any day of the damn week. Shit they might even put me through a table. Woop woop.

The Bears came into this game at 5-3, looking at a potentially deep playoff run on the heels of their NFC Championship loss to the Packers the January prior. After this victory, the Bears were on a roll that would eventually be snuffed out by Jay Cutler’s thumb injury the next week and the team then dropping their next five games. Yet on this Sunday afternoon, the orange-uniformed Bears looked like a team primed for another postseason run. This team dominated the Lions in all phases of the game, scoring on offense, defense (twice!), and special teams. Matt Forte scored on the ground, Devin Hester took a punt back 82 yards, and both Major Wright and Charles Tillman took 3rd quarter interceptions to the house. Brian Urlacher almost took a first quarter Calvin Johnson fumble back for six as well, but since 2011 Brian Urlacher didn’t have the requisite amount of hair to break away in the open field, he was caught from behind.

Hester took a punt 82 yards for a score, his last punt return touchdown in Soldier Field. Earl Bennett led the Bears with 6 catches and 81 yards, and future felon and NIU alum Sam Hurd even made the stat sheet. This one was a blowout, folks. The score was 37-6 when Tim Jennings picked Stafford off for the 4th time in the game, and the frustrated frat boy grabbed a blocking DJ Moore by the shoulder pads and whipped him down, leading to a minor brawl after Moore returned the favor by getting up and absolutely trucking a kneeling Stafford.

NFL fights are almost always the most disappointing brawls in all the major sports, save the Andre Johnson/Cortland Finnegan one from 2011, which is without a doubt the Ali/Frazier of NFL fights. If that was Ali/Frazier, the DJ Moore/Matthew Stafford dust up of 2011 was like watching a World Star video. If my memory serves me right (which it may not because the tailgating and beer vendors most certainly over served me right), that got the crowd HEAVY into the “Detroit Sucks!” chants.

The Kid Rock fans were already gone when we got back to the parking lot.