The Bears got something they really needed last week against the Falcons: A healthy win against a struggling team. This week, they get a team that is about as surging as a 1-1 over the last two weeks (and below .500) team can be, as they welcome the Dolphins to Soldier Field searching for their first home win of the year.
Last Year: Finished 8-8, good for 3rd in the AFC East (yes, the same record as the Bears).
This Year: So far, they're 2-3, still good for third in the AFC East, upsetting the Patriots in week 1 and destroying the Raiders in week 4, before narrowly falling to the Packers last week in Florida.
When Last We Met: You have to go back to 2010 for this, but it's worth it, as the Bears shut out the Dolphins 16-0 on Thursday Night Snoozefest-- um I mean Thursday Night Football, to push the Dolphins to 5-5. Jay Cutler threw for 156 yards and an interception, but ran for 28 yards, and Matt Forte took 25 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown. Robbie Gould kicked three field goals in the victory. Chester Taylor ran 11 times for 10 yards, but we won't look at that. Tyler Thigpen passed for 187 yards and an interception; Brandon Marshall picked up three of those receptions for 41 yards. Julius Peppers had three of the Bears' six sacks on the day.
|Total Points||120 (14th)||124 (22nd)|
|Total Yardage||1,766 (16th)||1,658 (7th)|
|Passing Yardage||1,085 (25th)||1,108 (8th)|
|Rushing Yardage||681 (6th)||550 (13th)|
Offense: With Knowshon Moreno heading to injured reserve for the remainder of the year, the rushing offense is fully in the hands of Lamar Miller, who's been getting the bellcow's share of the work anyway (Moreno's missed three games this season, and has one carry against Buffalo and six carries Sunday against Green Bay), but has played pretty well in his third year of work. On 63 carries he's picked up 330 yards and 3 touchdowns, and has another 15 receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown, proving to be one of Miami's more reliable weapons. At receiver, Mike Wallace has the majority of targets with 44, but only 7 more receptions than Jarvis Landry (18), 8 more than Charles Clay (17), and 9 more than Brian Hartline. The Dolphins do a good job of spreading the ball around to multiple targets.
At the helm is Ryan Tannehill, first round draft pick in 2012; with 2014 first-round draft pick Ja'Wuan James starting at right tackle (And Clay the 2011 6th-round pick), the future is now for the Dolphins offense. It's a good start, but they still have room to improve. Tannehill's flashed this season, especially over his last two games, but that's still four games out of five with a passer rating below 84 and a net yards per attempt of 5.54, which is good for 48th overall of 64 players attempting a pass (33rd of 39 players throwing at least 40 passes). That being said, he does have 8 touchdowns to 5 interceptions, including a touchdown in each game this season, and he's been able to make better use of his legs the last couple games.
They've allowed ten sacks on the season, which for Tannehill is a better sack percentage allowed than Jay Cutler has (and better than quite a few other quarterbacks), yet is still a higher sack rate than the Falcons allowed, when the Bears picked up four on Matt Ryan. Former Packer Daryn Colledge slots in at left guard with Mike Pouncey across from him and Samson Satele at center.
Defense: Cameron Wake's got a pretty decent bookend in the young Olivier Vernon, the Dolphins' third round draft pick in 2012 (hmm, something about that 2012 draft...), who has 3.5 sacks across from Wake's likewise 3.5. 2010's first round draft pick, Jared Odrick, has a sack and a forced fumble at defensive tackle, and fourth-round draft pick in 2013 Jelani Jenkins seems to have a starting linebacking spot sewn up, to continue the youth movement.
An area the Dolphins aren't young is over in the backfield, where the Dolphins cobbled together three free-agent acquisitions in Brent Grimes, Louis Delmas, and Cortland Finnegan to go with 2011's seventh-round draft pick Jimmy Wilson.
Some of the big news for the week is the return of defensive lineman Derrick Shelby after being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. Fellow defensive lineman Dion Jordan, last year's first round pick, is listed as serving a six-game suspension on PFR, but PFR also says "suspension served." Last I checked, 5 is less than six? I guess we'll see as things go on here.
If the Bears do this: Offensively, the Bears are up against a pretty strong defensive unit that doesn't give up a lot in the passing game thanks to their pass rush and veteran secondary (and while they've allowed three 100-yard rushing games, they've only allowed a 3.8 YPC). Protecting Cutler and airing the ball out is big, but the pass rush has to be stopped first, and the Bears did just allow three sacks to an until-then-hapless Falcons pass rush.
If the Dolphins do this: The Bears' run defense has improved over last year, but the Bears will still see plenty of Lamar Miller, given his 5.2 YPC. Getting a pass rush on Tannehill isn't a bad idea either, but with his increased use of his legs, the Bears will need to be wary of scrambles.
Closing Thoughts: The 2-3 record on the Dolphins is not really indicative of how the Dolphins have played, so the Bears will have to be ready to go on Sunday as they push for an above-.500 record.