After a wonderful six game winning streak and a magical 7-1 start to the season, I hate to say it Bears fans but it all ends this week. The Bears cannot hang with the Houston Texans.
I write this not as a massive pessimist but as a realist. In the NFL any given team can win on any given Sunday. The parity of the league is at an all-time high. The Bears and Texans are two of the best teams in the league and of course the game could go either way but I believe the Texans will beat the Bears, despite the homefield advantage.
The Bears have never beaten the Houston Texans franchise. They are the only active franchise the Bears has never beaten. They haven't really been close either. In the two previous match ups the Bears were outscored 55-29. I just don't think Sunday will be the first win either.
This is set up to the be the game that the Bears defense can't keep up. For starters, no team the Bears have beaten this year have a positive turnover ratio. The Texans have a +8 turnover ratio. Houston takes care of the football. They have only four fumbles on the year and have lost only one. Matt Schaub has thrown four interceptions. Arian Foster has not fumbled this season.
The Bears have been thriving on turnovers and no doubt they are great at it, but at some point we all know it has to end. It's impossible for a team to count on its defense to score a TD a game. Even if the Bears can generate turnovers, there is no guarantee they can return them for scores. If the Bears are going to win on Sunday, they need the offense to do it.
The Bears are not prepared for their offense to carry them. The Bears are going to need to put together long, sustained drives against Houston. The Texans lead the league in time of possession at 35:13 per game. The defense is going to have a tough time getting off the field, meaning they will need the offense to hold the ball, drive down the field and score touchdowns, not field goals.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence for the Bears to say that the offense can do that. The Bears may be fourth in the league in time of possession, but they have run 36 less plays from scrimmage and rank 25th in yards per game. Going on long scoring drives is not the Bears strength. Exhibit A for this is last Sunday, against the Titans, the Bears' offense had touchdown drives of eight, 16, 65 and two yards. The longest of those drives was five plays (which was the 65-yard scoring drive).
The offense also had scoring drives of nine, eight and seven plays. Those drives went for 27, 73 and 76 yards, respectively. They all ended with field goals. For whatever reason, the Bears' offense cannot seem to get itself going unless the defense sets it up. The longest touchdown drive the Bears had against Tennessee came in the fourth quarter, when the Bears were already ahead 37-12.
The offense has not shown that it has the ability to get itself going and drive up and down the field against a defense at will. This will be even more difficult on Sunday night because of one man.
Watt may be the biggest single reason I do not think the Bears can beat the Texans. Watt is an absolute beast. He moves around and lines up just about anywhere, he plays the run well and he deflects passes like so few hand-on-the-ground defensive ends can. The thought of Watt lining up across from J'Marcus Webb is scary enough, but it scares me even more to think about him against Gabe Carimi.
Our tackles have not shown they can contain a guy like Watt. It doesn't matter what Carimi did against his teammate in college, they have both gone in very different directions since then and play in different schemes from when they were at Wisconsin.
The Bears best bet is when Watt is lined up on Lance Louis, who is their best lineman this season. That isn't likely to happen much because Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will know the better match up is Watt lined up across one of Chicago's tackles.
The Texans defense is ranked in the top four in both pass and run defense. The Bears won't have an answer for their relentless attack. The Bears don't have the offensive weaponry to beat a defense like this. Plus, Andre Johnson ate Charles Tillman alive the last time these two teams met, to the tune of 10 rec. 148 yards and two TDs. Go ahead and watch these highlights (Warning: Severe anger and feelings of the gut punch of that 2008 choke are going to re-surface after watching).
I hate to say it, but this is the week the winning streak ends. It won't sink the season by any means, but the Bears just don't match up well against one of the best defenses in the league.