LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) — The Bears (3-7) travel to the Motor City for a divisional matchup against the Lions (7-2) on Sunday at Ford Field. Here are three storylines to follow in the game.
Bears quarterback Justin Fields is set to return Sunday following a four-game absence due to a right thumb injury. He'll start the game, barring an injury setback in practice late in the week.
The final seven regular-season games will give Fields the opportunity to make a lasting impression on the Bears before they have to make a pivotal decision on their quarterback future in the offseason. The Bears could look to find their next quarterback at or near the top of the NFL Draft, and they'll also have a decision due by early May on the fifth-year option for 2025 in Fields' contract.
The Bears’ decision could be tied to their draft positioning. The first-round pick they hold from the Panthers (1-8) currently slots as the No. 1 overall selection. If that were to hold, the Bears would have the opportunity to draft a prized quarterback prospect like Caleb Williams (USC) Drake Maye (North Carolina).
Fields has flashed promise at times and also struggled this season, throwing for 1,201 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions in six starts. That included a two-game stretch in early October over which Fields threw for eight touchdowns.
“Seven (games) is enough time to show consistency and being the high performer that we expect him to be,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said of Fields.
On Sunday, Fields will face a Lions team that ranks 21st in scoring defense and 20th in pass defense. What might be most important for Fields is avoiding costly mistakes, as there’s little margin for error against a tough opponent.
Running back David Montgomery had similar offers in March to either re-sign with Chicago or to ship up to Detroit and sign with the Lions.
Montgomery chose to leave the Bears, who drafted him in 2019 and for whom he played 60 games. In doing so, he joined a Lions team that was poised for a breakthrough and which has now risen to the top of the NFC North.
"My first two years in the league, it was like stat games for me when I'd see Detroit," Montgomery told Will Burchfield of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit. "Just being honest. Me just circling the calendar of when I would play Detroit. My first, second and third year. But last year, it was just a whole different story. I’m like, ‘Maybe it was a fluke.’ And then they did it to us again the second time. I’m like, ‘Alright, maybe they’re the real deal.’ Then I got over here and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, this is the real deal.’"
Montgomery has rushed for 501 yards and seven touchdowns in six games this season. He missed three contests due to a ribs injury before returning in the Lions' win against the Chargers last Sunday.
In the first season of a three-year, $18-million deal, Montgomery has found a fit with the Lions and taken advantage of his opportunities. He'll now face the Bears for the first time in his career.
Even as rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs has emerged and gained a greater role in the Lions’ offense, Montgomery should still be heavily featured. He has run tough throughout his entire career, so the Bears know well what to expect from him Sunday.
In the Bears’ victory against the Panthers on Nov. 9, new pass rusher Montez Sweat registered an impressive eight pressures on Carolina quarterback Bryce Young.
“Here's the thing about stats is although he didn't have any sacks, he affected the quarterback,” Bear linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi said. “And that was a big deal for our defensive backs and our linebackers, the guys in coverage, because that helps them out a lot because the quarterbacks feel that.”
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus referred to it as “the Tez effect,” and his defense hopes to find more of it.
The Bears acquired Sweat from the Commanders in late October in exchange for a second-round pick, then signed him to a four-year contract extension worth up to $98 million. It was an aggressive move to land a disruptive defensive player whom the Bears were missing.
Now it's time to see what Sweat can do for an encore Sunday in Detroit.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.