Previewing the Bears-Cowboys game is simple: the two defenses are playing terrific football, and the two offenses aren't. Out of those simplicities are a ton of minute details and variables that can sway the outcome of the game. For the Bears offense, the biggest key will be what they do to slow down one of the best defensive players in the NFL, DeMarcus Ware.
This is Ware's eighth year in the league, and the former Defensive Player of the Year (2008) has accumulated double digit sacks in every season except for his rookie year (a partly eight). Ware is by far the most devastating force on the Cowboys defense that has to be reckoned with every down. From his outside linebacking position in the Cowboys 3-4 defense, he's a solid run stopper and decent at dropping into coverage, but his ability to get to the quarterback is what makes him one of the best in the game.
Ware is coming off of a performance against the Buccaneers that was downright scary: five tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles. I mean, watch him just drive Tampa Bay left tackle Donald Penn back:
Ware gets by Penn on his first step, Penn tries to engage him and drive him behind Josh Freeman, but Ware's strong enough to get inside Penn and knock the ball out of Freeman's hands. Part of that sack responsibility goes on Freeman for holding the ball, but he may have though he was in the clear from Ware. Most defensive ends are not able to break free from a block two yards behind the QB, then snap forward and get to the QB.
You'll notice that the Cowboys sent five pass rushers at Freeman, and #28 for Tampa Bay (D.J. Ware, holla) goes inside Penn to block Sean Lee, leaving Penn by himself. Sending five or more rushers is not a Dallas tendency; in fact, they only did it on six of Seattle's 25 pass plays the week before. But when they do blitz, the Cowboys are deadly effective, forcing QB's into a 59.4 passer rating (Cutler's rating this season so far: 58.6).
So if the Cowboys blitz? The Bears need to provide at least one additional blocker to Ware's side to help out Webb; honestly, I think the only time it should be Webb vs. Ware one-on-one is in the running game. I'd like to see Matt Spaeth earn his paycheck by lining up next to Webb (motioning from the right side would be nice too), especially since the tight ends really haven't gotten involved in the passing game and with Evan Rodriguez banged up a bit. If its not a tight end helping, then chips or double teams need to come from the left guard or backfield player.
The Cowboys overall have a talented defensive line, but Ware has four of the team's seven sacks this year. Their other outside linebacker, Anthony Spencer, is good but not anywhere near Ware's talent-level, and nose tackle Jay Ratliff can collapse the front of the pocket by himself (if he plays). With all those pass rushers charging into the backfield though, the Bears should be able to execute some screen passes and quick passes to prevent the Cowboys from planting Cutler into the ground. Its a good plan, unless you try single blocking Ware while waiting for the receiver to get open, like the Bucs did.
Doesn't that look familiar? A pass rushing monster with only a tight end preventing him from devouring the quarterback. Again, does Freeman stare down his receiver and wait a beat too long for the play to develop? Yes, but Cutler's done that to from time to time, and Tice needs to be smart enough to prevent Ware from having such an obvious advantage. Running at Ware and/or pulling lineman towards will help, play action (off the quick variety) and rolling right will help get Cutler away from Ware regardless of how the protection is holding up. But Tice needs, especially early on, to key on Ware and minimize his impact early. The Bears don't need another first play sack or first quarter turnover (both of which they avoided last week).
The Bears offense will not have an easy day, but keeping Ware from dominating the game like he did against the Buccaneers will be big. Ware will get into the backfield, he'll beat his blockers and possibly get to the quarterback, but the Bears need to be smart enough to maximize the protection Jay gets from meeting Ware in the backfield. If Ware has a quiet game, the Bears can win or lose depending on other factors. But if #94 is picking up multiple sacks and creating turnovers, it's probably going to be a long night for Jay Cutler and a 2-2 record come Tuesday.