Part two in John Morgan's breakdown.
So the Colts D is not very spectacular: Speed up front versatility in the back, basic Tampa 2. Likewise, the Bears O isn't very spectacular either: power running, play action passing deep. But Ron Turner's meat and potatoes, older than the NFL itself, approach to offense is well suited for Chicago's strengths and should excel against Tony Dungy's Tampa 2.
Rex Grossman: I won't rehash what I said about the man they call "King". Suffice to say, Grossman falls apart when he faces three situations: good pass rush, good secondary and drives starting behind the 50. Let's evaluate the Colts by each measure.
For the year the Colts pass rush has been well below average. It's easy to look at their 25 sacks and conclude that, but one must also consider the strength of their schedule--with an adjusted sack rate of 6.2% the average Colts opponents' offensive line would rank roughly 18thin the league--and the fact that Colts opponents frequently had to play from behind. Colts' opponents ran the second most pass plays in the league, 415, meaning the Colts' defense recorded a sack on just 6% of passing plays. Ouch, but teams in a Tampa 2 rarely blitz and not every time a Qb is pressured does it record a sack. So it's important to note that the Colts did pick 15 passes, though, again, on 415 passes. For the year the Colts pass rush is at least well below average and likely one of the worst in the league.
Ok, how does the Indy's secondary stack up? The Colts were poor at defending #1 and #2 receivers and below average at covering the TE. Their biggest strength was against RBs and 3-5 receivers, players Chicago rarely pass too. The loose gaggle of Bradley, Davis and Gage caught five fewer passes than Desmond Clark alone. Nick Harper is a borderline #2 CB playing a #1 and sixth rounder Antoine Bethea has been eminently torchable in his rookie year.
Finally, to the matter of field position. Peyton Manning rarely throws picks. Joseph Addai is decent at protecting the rock; he had only two fumbles on 226 carries. Dominic Rhodes is a small liability, losing the ball three times on just 187 carries. Forcing fumbles is a strength of the Bears, but Chicago can't expect an explosion of turnovers a la week 8 against the 49ers. What they can expect is good field position via the return game. The Bears dynamic Devin Hester will face an Indy unit that was 3rd worst in the league at kickoff coverage and 4th worst in the league at punt coverage. Hester and Rashied Davis needn't take a single ball to the house as long as they can consistently set up Grossman with good field position. That's because Grossman is perfectly capable of making big plays, but largely incapable of sustaining long drives. He is the Qb equivalent of the boom-or-bust running back and like DeShaun Foster, never as good as he looks on his good days.
That's because there really is no Good Grossman or Bad Grossman, but only little old below average Grossman. His Qb rating is often stellar because of a few bombs and some great field position, and his Qb rating is often brutal because of Turner's offense that sacrifices completion percentage for big plays. Cut through the noise and you have a player that can toss a pretty deep ball, but is inaccurate and regularly makes poor decisions. However, Indy has polished the performances of David Carr, Mark Brunell, and Cleo Lemon and they should do the same for Grossman.
Cedric Benson: Of the many reasons I didn't like Chicago drafting Benson with the 4th pick overall in the 2005 draft was the amount of wear he accrued in college. Benson was a 4 year starter and in his senior year he tallied 326 carries in only 12 games. Those carries aren't going away, and unless Benson is the rare talent who is seemingly immune to injury (something his first season in the NFL strongly contradicts) they will likely shorten his professional career. But, for now, Benson has the fresh legs and strength, quickness and vision to rip through an undersized and undisciplined Colts front seven. He has also put to rest whatever, perhaps unfounded, fumble concerns scouts had for him coming out of college.
Against New Orleans, Benson was inconsistent, but still picked up four first downs. More importantly, he played well enough to spell starter Thomas Jones. Jones then tore up Soldier Field to the tune of 123 yards and two scores on only 19 carries. Benson's emergence has given Chicago a venerable two headed rushing attack, a trait shared by both teams in the NFC and AFC championships. Smart teams are realizing that two fresh, complimentary running backs are more valuable, healthier and often cheaper than one superstar back. While Benson's play has been largely unspectacular, and it's highly debatable whether the Bears could have gotten the same or better performance from Adrian Peterson without spending the draft pick, his presence will pay potentially huge dividends in the second half Sunday. By then the Bears can really wear down the Colts small defensive line with a crushing one-two of Jones and Benson. That is, if Chicago can still afford to run the ball in the second half on Sunday.
So Indy's defense is no great shakes and Chicago has a number of very winnable match-ups on offense and special teams. Does this mean I expect Chicago to win? Let's just say I wouldn't place money on it. The Bears defense was one of the best in the league, but does not match-up well against Indianapolis. I'll tell you why Bear fans better hope Indy's recent defensive renaissance is an aberration, and why I expect Peyton Manning and company to have no trouble scoring on the Bears vaunted defense tomorrow.