Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett pulls in a touchdown pass during the second half of a NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
If there is one Chicago Bears player who should be the happiest about seeing the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon, it would have to be tight end Martellus Bennett.
That’s because Bennett set all sorts of season highs in the team’s Week 4 loss to Detroit. Not only was he targeted 12 times, but he also caught eight passes for 90 yards in that game. Despite the team's losing effort, Bennett’s ability to provide a big target for Jay Cutler to find underneath was on full display in the contest and represents the reason the team brought him into the fold during the offseason.
The question, then, is whether or not Bennett can do it again. After all, one of the biggest obstacles facing an offense in a divisional game is coming up with enough new wrinkles to fool a defense that has already seen it before, and in a case like Bennett’s, the Lions know that he is a target that Cutler will throw to early and often, if given the opportunity.
That being said, there is reason to believe that Bennett will get plenty of looks at Soldier Field Sunday. The Lions tend to give up decent numbers to tight ends, with examples like Jordan Cameron (five receptions, 64 yards) and Jermaine Gresham (four catches, 64 yards) sticking out.
The Lions are capable of stopping a tight end, with Jason Witten (two catches, 15 yards) and Kyle Rudolph (two catches, 27 yards), but for the most part, they will surrender a good number of chances to guys over the middle of the field since they more heavily emphasize getting pressure on the pass rush than they do dropping guys back into pass coverage.
What will help Bennett undoubtedly will be the return of Cutler to the quarterback spot. Yes, Josh McCown seems like a more ideal candidate to drop the ball off to Bennett to avoid the pass rush, but it’s Cutler’s deep arm that helps Bennett out more. That’s because the Lions’ safeties will have to be extra careful not to give up the home run ball against Cutler, where he throws deep along the sidelines to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. That leaves the duty of stopping Bennett and Matt Forte largely to the Lions’ linebackers, and those are matchups that both players can definitely win.
In any case, the Bears would probably prefer to mix up their looks more than they did in the first game against Detroit, when the score got out of hand early and they had to take to the air early and often. Even if that’s the case though, Bennett should be able to find enough soft spots in the coverage so that he can get open, and Cutler should have a field day throwing him the ball.