LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) While Jim Caldwell was in no mood to discuss his future with the Detroit Lions this week, Calvin Johnson made his feelings clear.
Megatron wants his coach to stay.
The Lions visit the Chicago Bears in a game that will determine last place in the NFC North, and just might be the end for a coach who one year ago led this franchise to a rare playoff appearance.
''Yeah man, I love him,'' said Johnson, the six-time Pro Bowl receiver. ''Everybody in the locker room would probably say the same thing. He commands respect, but he doesn't have to do much, it's just his character guys gravitate toward. Easily, one of my favorite coaches. I've had a couple good ones and one of my favorites.''
The question is will a recent surge after a 1-7 start be enough to save his job. The Lions (6-9) have won five of seven heading into this game against Chicago (6-9), rebounding against mediocre teams such as Oakland, Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco.
Still, the recent results are more in line with what they anticipated this season.
The Lions came in thinking they were contenders in the NFC North even with the loss of star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency, and it was not hard to see why. After all, Detroit made the playoffs for just the second time in 15 years. And Caldwell tied a franchise record for a first-year Lions coach with 11 wins.
The poor start this season led to a shakeup in the coaching staff, with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and two other assistants getting fired in late October. Ownership dropped the hammer on management the following week, letting president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew go.
Caldwell's dismissal no longer looks like a certainty thanks to the recent run. But is it enough to save his job?
Caldwell, 17-14 in two seasons with the Lions, sidestepped questions about his job security, saying, ''My concern is this ballgame coming up.''
It's against a team showing signs that better days are coming. The Bears made a surprising jump into playoff contention in their first year under coach John Fox before a three-game losing streak. They ended that by beating Tampa Bay last week, giving the Bears more wins than they had a year ago under Marc Trestman.
''(Fox) knows how to get a team to where it's supposed to be and what it takes,'' quarterback Jay Cutler said. ''The minute he walks in the room, guys are on the edge of their seats listening to what he's going to say.''
Here are some things to know as the Lions and Bears try to finish on a winning note.
FAREWELL FORTE?: Given his age (30) and expiring contract, it's fair to wonder if this will be running back Matt Forte's final game with the Bears. Forte said last week he would like to return to Chicago for a ninth season but isn't hopeful. He also said he is not looking to break the bank.
Forte, who missed three games due to a knee injury, has 822 yards rushing and is averaging 4.1 per carry. But he has split time this season with rookie Jeremy Langford and, at times, Ka'Deem Carey.
COOTER CONNECTION: Matthew Stafford seems to be in a groove with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who began calling plays against Kansas City in London on Nov. 1. The Lions got pounded in that game. But they've been rolling ever since.
Stafford has 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions in the past seven games. He has completed 69.7 percent of his passes during this stretch - and a career-best 66.9 percent on the season.
STREAKING: Although they hold a 96-70-5 series edge, the Bears have dropped five in a row to Detroit. That includes a 37-34 overtime loss in October in which Matt Prater kicked the winning field goal for the Lions and Stafford threw for a season-high 405 yards.
Chicago's most recent victory over Detroit? A 26-24 win in the 2012 season finale. That was also Lovie Smith's last game as Bears coach.
RECORD IN REACH: Detroit's Theo Riddick already holds one franchise record for a running back with 668 yards receiving this season. He has a chance to set another one on Sunday.
With 76 catches, he is one shy of the club single-season record for running backs set by James Jones in 1984.
MEGA TROUBLE: With 78 catches for 1,077 yards and eight touchdowns, Johnson's numbers aren't quite at the level they were a few years ago. He is still having a productive season at age 30. And he tends to give the Bears trouble.
Johnson has 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns in 16 games against Chicago. He has at least 103 yards in the past three meetings, giving him five 100-yard performances vs. the Bears.
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