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We offer three keys for the Bears' offense to work against the Cowboys on Monday night.
1) Slow Down DeMarcus Ware - With More Than Just Trying To Block Him
I don't know if you guys are aware of this, but DeMarcus Ware is a bad bad man. Nine times out of ten (and sometimes even ten times out of ten) Ware is rushing the passer from his 3-4 OLB position - and why wouldn't you send a guy that has more career sacks than Julius Peppers (in three fewer seasons) after the quarterback? (We call that a rhetorical question.)
Needless to say, Clay Matthews ripped apart the Bears' pass protection when Mike Tice accidentally confused himself with Mike Martz and continued calling deep drop after deep drop and Jay Cutler hung onto the ball. The Bears can't get into the same trap with a player that, like Matthews, spends most of his time rushing the passer. Letting him get upfield and using Matt Forte (and Armando Allen, for speed) on the draw would help slow down the pass rush, as well as on screens and other short passes - at least to start. I fully expect the Bears to work the deep ball, and they'll need to hit on those, but it won't do any good if they give Ware free reign to come after Cutler.
2) Revenge of the Passing Game
Jay Cutler (and the Bears passing game) has been much-maligned over the last two weeks. Between Dave Gilbert's look at the 30 quarterbacks that currently have a better quarterback ranking than Cutler, Sam's look at how Aaron Rodgers and Cutler react to pressure differently, and my own remarks in last week's Notes that Cutler had a hard time hitting what throws were available to him, Cutler's been raked over the coals - and perhaps unfairly. Does Cutler struggle, and is he inconsistent? Sure he is. But can this team get anywhere without him? Doubtful. Jason Campbell is a nice backup option, but he's not a starter for the simple reason that he isn't better than Cutler.
We've spent the last two years as Bears fans demanding he get better protection, stop being put in the line of fire as often as he has been, and that he get better weapons. He's got the better weapons and a new offensive coordinator, and for this game, it needs to really start coming together. The Bears' defense got them through the Rams game, but it's doubtful that the defense can get them through against the Cowboys' offense like that.
The Bears have to win the turnover battle and that includes not throwing interceptions. The passing game needs to be sharp; they can't afford to give the ball away and be ineffective.
3) Tight Ends. Just, tight ends.
Through three games, I can't put the performance of the tight ends in the "good" column. At all. Kellen Davis hasn't looked like the "Do everything" tight end Lovie Smith has said he can be, and Matt Spaeth and Kyle Adams haven't exactly stepped up either. It includes pass protection (such as the "Ole!" act Davis pulled off against Clay Matthews) as well as catching passes - which the tight ends have six combined receptions for 69 yards.
Honorable mention here to the wide receivers, particularly Earl Bennett and Brandon Marshall, who have been reliable for Cutler in the past, but Bennett's been targeted on three interceptions, and Marshall, two. Seriously, help your quarterback out a little.
What are your offensive keys for Monday's game?