Stafford, Trubisky under spotlight in Bears-Lions opener
Matthew Stafford takes great pride in playing through whatever injuries he may endure.
That’s what made last season especially painful for the veteran Detroit Lions quarterback. After starting every game the previous eight seasons, Stafford was sidelined by a back injury that forced him to miss the last eight games.
Predictably, the Lions fell apart without him, losing nine in a row to finish 3-12-1. Stafford will return to the field when the Lions face the NFC North-rival Chicago Bears in the season opener at Detroit’s Ford Field.
“No question last year stung,” Stafford told DetroitLions.com. “It stung for me to not be out there. It stung for our team to have it go the way it went. The intensity level and the urgency is high as it always is. I’m just excited to go play.”
The Bears are also coming off a disappointing campaign, as they returned to mediocrity (8-8) after running away with the division in 2018.
Until late in camp, the Bears were still trying to decide who would start behind center. They traded a fourth-round pick for Nick Foles but incumbent Mitchell Trubisky held onto his job, at least for now.
“This was going to be a fair battle for both of these guys,” head coach Matt Nagy said. “Both these guys were really battling their tail off every single day. In the end, Mitch won the job, and I think that’s very important for him, for us, for everybody to understand that he worked really hard to get to this point.”
Trubisky knows his hold on the starting job is tenuous. He regressed last season after throwing 24 touchdown passes and completing 66.6 percent of his passes in 2018. Those figures dropped to 17 and 63.2 percent in 2019.
“We know we’ve got to be better in the red zone, be better on third down to stay on the field, and when we get down there, we’ve got to make sure we’re scoring points, because at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters,” Trubisky told NFL.com. “But I just feel like where we’re at studying and where we’re at mentally, our approach taking the field is different than it was last year.”
Trubisky had two three-touchdown performances (just one INT) against the Lions last season, his two highest-rated games of the season. For his career, Trubisky is 3-2 with a 106.3 rating and 11 touchdowns and four interceptions vs. the Lions.
“Overall, his decision-making, we felt like that’s improving,” Bears GM Ryan Pace said about naming Trubisky the starter. “And as he builds, you feel his command and comfort level in the offense. That’s real. We’ve added a lot of pieces around him that I think are going to benefit him when you talk about what we’ve done at tight end and receiver and in the run game.”
Detroit has a potentially dynamic offense if its quarterback doesn’t suffer another injury setback. Stafford threw 19 touchdown passes in eight games. He has a variety of enticing targets in Kenny Golladay (1,190 YDs, 11 TDs), Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola and tight end T.J. Hockenson.
“I know I have a bunch of talented playmakers around me, some guys that if I can just get the ball in their hands, they can do some pretty incredible stuff,” Stafford said. “It’s on us as an offense to go out there and operate. We have to operate as one, 11 guys working together, and just because we had success last year (when he was healthy) doesn’t mean we’re going to have success this year.”
It remains uncertain how coach Matt Patricia will use his potpourri of running backs. The Lions added Adrian Peterson to the mix late in training camp. Rookie D’Andre Swift has missed time in camp due to a leg injury. Incumbent Kerryon Johnson is still listed as the starter.
“We’re excited to have him, but we have to see how this all shakes out,” Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of Peterson.
Golladay, Amendola and Swift practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday and are questionable for Sunday. Also, starting right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (foot) was limited and is also questionable. Starting defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (groin) was limited Wednesday.
Allen Robinson (98 receptions, 1,147 yards, 7 TDs) remains the top receiving threat for the Bears.
The team’s top running back, David Montgomery, is dealing with a groin injury and practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday. Top pass rusher Kahlil Mack (knee) and offseason acquisition Robert Quinn were also limited.
–Field Level Media