Lions running back D’Andre Swift has come a long way since he dropped a game-winning touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford on the final play of his first NFL game in the 2020 season opener that allowed the Bears to escape Ford Field with a 27-23 victory.
The second-round pick from Georgia is coming off back-to-back games of 130-plus yards against the Steelers (33-130) and Browns (14-136, 57-yard touchdown) — after averaging just 36.1 yards in his first eight games this season. He’s the first Lions running back to rush for 100 or more yards in back-to-back games since Kevin Jones in 2004.
Bears linebacker Roquan Smith — a college teammate of Swift’s on Georgia’s 13-2 national runner-up in 2017 — is playing at an All-Pro level and picking up steam. He is tied for third in the NFL with 110 tackles and had 17 tackles, including two tackles-for-loss, against the Ravens last week in a dominant performance.
Though the Bears had just 20 carries for 92 yards (4.6 avg.) against the Ravens, they still are averaging 145.4 rushing yards and 4.8 yards per carry in their last seven games. They are sixth in the NFL in rushing (132.1) and ninth in yards per carry (4.6 avg.).
David Montgomery had his best game of the season against the Lions in the Bears’ 24-14 victory at Soldier Field in Week 4 — 23 carries for 106 yards and two touchdowns before suffering a knee injury in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
Montgomery missed four games and has 27 carries for 121 yards (4.5 avg.) against the Steelers and Ravens in two games since his return.
PLAYER TO WATCH
The Bears took a big chance this season with unproven second-year cornerback Kindle Vildor starting opposited Jaylon Johnson. Vildor has struggled most of the season — hit-and-miss at best, but overall not good enough at a key position. Vildor had a sack on a blitz last week, but also two major errors on the Ravens’ fateful touchdown drive in the final 33 seconds — a pass interference penalty and a miscommunication that led to Sammy Watkins’ 29-yard catch to the 3.
Vildor needs a big finish to the season to re-establish himself as a prospect for 2022. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai said he could lighten his snap-load to take some of the heat off.
“Kindle has kind of been in a little bit of a rut,” Desai said. “He’s going to have to go through these growing pains a little bit. It’s a good challenge for him to make sure he’s mentally tough to go through that.”
After losing to the Lamar Jackson-less Ravens, the Bears had a short, but tumultuous, week — punctuated by a report that Nagy was told this would be his final game as the Bears’ head coach. Nagy denied that, but the reality of the situation, if not the inevitability of the situation, is pretty clear. There’s no telling how the Bears will react.