The Bears had everything going their way against the Dallas Cowboys - the offense driving, the defense ballhawking, and Robbie Gould chipped in a couple field goals of his own. And now they'll hope to keep everything going against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that really has started out going nowhere fast.
Last Year: Finished 5-11, good for third in the AFC South, above an uncharacteristic last-place finish by the Indianapolis Colts, which the Jaguars swept in their season series.
This Year: Right now they're 1-3, which is still good for third in the AFC South. They started with an overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings and falling to the Texans before beating the Colts 22-17 for their lone win - and then lost to the Bengals, 27-10.
When Last We Met: The last time the Bears and Jaguars met, it was week 14 of the 2008 season - yes, back in the dark Pre-Cutler days. The Bears beat the Jaguars 23-10 to drop Jacksonville to 4-9, behind Kyle Orton's decently respectable 20-34 for 219 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception - and outdueling David Garrard with his 19-38, 178 yard performance with one touchdown and one interception. Current Jaguar Maurice Jones-Drew split carries with the now-retired and probably Hall-of-Famer Fred Taylor, and picked up 55 yards on 12 carries, and another 47 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions. Devin Hester had five receptions for 80 yards.
Total Yardage: 32nd
Total Points: 32nd
Passing Yardage: 31st
Rushing Yardage: 15th
Put bluntly, right now it's a team that runs to set up the run and .... run. Maurice Jones-Drew is still the workhorse running back, although the team would like to get his backup Rashad Jennings a bit more playing time to ease the wear and tear on an already-plenty-used MJD.
However, the team's put a fair amount of emphasis on improving the passing game - they spent a first round pick on Blaine Gabbert last year and were forced to play him early thanks to the other quarterback options being, well, eh... and then they spent a top-5 pick this year on Justin Blackmon. They also ponied up a fair amount of money for Laurent Robinson, who's expected to miss Sunday's game with a concussion. Right now Gabbert's only thrown one interception, but the rest of his stats just aren't there, with his 55.8% completion percentage and 163.5 yards per game. And the offensive line hasn't been able to give him any support either, as Gabbert's been sacked 12 times. And Blackmon's made ten receptions, leading the receivers, but only for 79 yards.
The offense just hasn't been able to get up and down the field as they need to be able to. Most ball movement is reliant on MJD and play action off that, but MJD hasn't been able to finish drives himself (one touchdown only).
Total Yardage: 26th
Total Points: 19th
Passing Yardage: 20th
Rushing Yardage: 30th
The defense hasn't been able to get after the passer lately (and by lately I mean the last couple years) aside really from Jeremy Mincey, so when Mincey hit free agency, the Jaguars had to prioritize resigning him, as well as adding Andre Branch in the second round of the draft. Branch to this point hasn't added much, and neither has Mincey - both of the Jaguars' sacks (right, both) have come from defensive tackles Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton. Elsewhere, they added linebacker Paul Posluszny last season, who's so far a nice addition. In the defensive backs, four cornerbacks (Derek Cox, Rashean Mathis, William Middleton, and Aaron Ross) all have two starts apiece - though Middleton and Ross are listed on PFR as the starters, but Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox are both having really nice years so far. But if this unit continues to be unable to get to the quarterback, they'll have a hard time succeeding.
If the Bears do this: The first thing the Bears should do is lock Mincey out of the backfield. Rushing the passer, he's struggling pretty well, and nobody else has really shown a consistent ability to get to the quarterback thus far. From that, it should be pretty straight forward: run away from Mincey (since he's pretty good at getting to the ballcarrier as they approach), then let the weapons loose. The Bears don't want to give Mincey the opportunity to pin his ears back and just come at J'Marcus Webb, but this could be a game where the Bears get to let the pass game fly.
If the Jaguars do this: Well, first they have to turn Mincey back into the pass rushing terror that he was. Or get Andre Branch to show the form that made him a second rounder. Or they'll have to add in blitzers, which the Jaguars haven't done so well in themselves. If the Jags can't get any sort of pass rush, the back seven will have their hands full. Dwight Lowery isn't having a bad year at safety, but the Jags can't afford to have the Bears' weapons loose. On offense, Maurice Jones-Drew will have to have a big day, or Blaine Gabbert gets protection and the opportunity to make some plays.
Closing Thoughts: If the Jaguars continue their pattern of getting very little pass rush, the Bears offense should be able to get things going in a hurry. The Jags' secondary is not a bad unit, but if Jay Cutler gets enough time, things should be available downfield, especially if Cutler can be as accurate as he was on Monday night.