LAKE FOREST – Henry Melton knows exactly what type of game to expect from the Detroit Lions when they line up across from the Bears this weekend.
“Dirty,” Melton said Wednesday without a moment of hesitation. “They’re dirty. They’ve always been a dirty team since I’ve been here. I don’t like them.”
Neither do the other 52 members of the Bears’ roster.
Although the Green Bay Packers are the Bears’ oldest rivals, the Lions have emerged in recent years as the Bears’ most hated rivals. Now, the Lions have an opportunity to spoil the season for the Bears (9-6), who need a win along with a Packers victory against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in order to make the playoffs.
It’s a rare opportunity for the last-place Lions (4-11) to play in a meaningful game.
“They’re disappointed in their season, so they’d like nothing more than to make us disappointed for the rest of the year,” said Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who is 2-1 at Detroit’s Ford Field since joining the Bears. “But we can’t worry about anything else other than our game plan and taking care of our business.”
The Bears will have to do so while keeping their composure against some of the Lions’ chief agitators. Detroit’s most recent poster boy for bad behavior is third-year defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was fined $15,000 for a hard hit to Cutler’s helmet in 2010 and ripped off Cutler’s helmet during a tackle in 2011.
Earlier this season, Suh slammed Cutler to the ground with a tackle that resembled a wrestling move. Suh was not fined for the hit, which caused Cutler to leave the game briefly because of sore ribs, but Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall took exception to the play and ripped Suh on Twitter.
Besides Suh, other Lions players who have irked the Bears include defensive tackle Nick Fairley and safety Louis Delmas. Bears nickelback D.J. Moore lunged at Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford after a takedown last season, while Melton singled out veteran center Dominic Raiola for being “old” and particularly dirty.
“They just try and do all this extra stuff – talking, little cheap shots,” said Melton, who practiced Wednesday after missing the past two games because of an injured clavicle. “If you look at the tape, they’ve always thrown cheap shots.
“We had a brawl, I think, last year. So, it is what it is. I’m ready.”
The Lions are ready, too.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz has made headlines for his fiery personality, including a highly publicized postgame incident in 2011 during which he chased and bumped San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh because of an aggressive handshake.
Yet Schwartz took a breath and measured his response when he was informed of Melton’s comments that his players took cheap shots and talked trash.
“The focus is on the game on Sunday,” Schwartz said. “I think that when you’re in the division, teams know each other very well. They play against each other a lot.
“The one thing that’s going to matter when we get to Sunday is the guys that are on the field and playing, and I think we’ll just leave it there.”