1) Running of the Bears
The Bears started out against the Colts in week one by picking up their first touchdown on the ground. Against the Packers, they didn't get their first (and only touchdown) until the fourth quarter from Kellen Davis. The first touchdown against the Rams came via Michael Bush in the second quarter, and against the Cowboys, well, the Bears didn't get a touchdown reception until the third quarter when they were ahead.
The Bears have scored five touchdowns through the air this season. Only one of those have come in the first half of a game - Brandon Marshall's catch in the second quarter against the Colts to take the lead. Every other touchdown reception has been:
- To increase the lead from 13 to 20 in the fourth quarter (Alshon Jeffery vs. Colts)
- To decrease the deficit from 20 to 13 in the fourth quarter (Kellen Davis vs. Packers)
- To increase the lead from 3 to 10 in the third quarter (Devin Hester vs. Cowboys)
- To increase the lead from 17 to 24 in the fourth quarter (Brandon Marshall vs. Cowboys)
Including Hester's touchdown grab, the Bears have scored two "meaningful" passing touchdowns in a small sample size, but when they take a lead in a game, so far it's been the rushing attack and the defense that have provided the spark, and not the vaunted passing game. I guess it's something to say that the passing game is certainly an effective boot to the throat so far. That being said, the Jags' rushing defense hasn't been stellar this season, and they've allowed six rushing touchdowns so far in addition to a 100-yard game on the ground each week.
2) Strike Deep
No, I'm not going to put pass protection as something that "has to step up." For once. Thing is, the Jaguars have two sacks on the season, and one of those was on a slide in the backfield. There's not a whole lot of pass-rush on this unit - there's still Jeremy Mincey, who's looked pretty good, but since he's the major threat (with Andre Branch not stepping up much, albeit as a rookie), he's been seeing the dreaded double team and hasn't gotten much help - and the Jaguars don't blitz a lot. If the Bears can keep the rest of the Jaguars' defensive unit off of Cutler, once the run is established, they should be able to uncork some of those deep developing play-action bombs they love so much. Hey, DeMarcus Ware was minimized last week, I'm allowed to be a little more hopeful than I already am.
3) Continue to Keep Brandon Marshall Involved
We saw last week how effective Marshall can be after the catch in addition to running deep, especially when he has Kellen Davis picking off his defender. That being said, the Bears should continue to unleash Marshall out of the slot and the outside - even if he doesn't get the ball, the Jaguars have to keep an eye on him no matter what. When he gets the ball, he can do damage, and the attention to him means more opportunities for Devin Hester, Alshon Jeffery and especially Kellen Davis, who finally made some big plays for Cutler last week. Marshall's presence opens things up for the other receivers, and it should continue to so against a Jacksonville secondary that, while not a horrific unit, isn't one of the league's elite either.