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Bears Vs Themselves: Six-Pack Keys to Victory

For a bye-week exercise, we're looking at how other teams might be trying to attack the Bears, using our own Six Keys.

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Wait, what?

That's not a typo. I'm still doing the Six-Pack this week, but instead of an opponent (Bye week and all, and I've made no secret in past years how much covering the bye week kind of sucks), we'll play a thought exercise on how to gameplan against... our own team. Using my main method of gameplanning - the Six Keys. (Not from the perspective of a certain team, but just in general.)

1) Pressure Jay Cutler

The Bears' quarterback is a risk-taker with a powerful arm and a lot of strong weapons to get the ball to, and sometimes he tries to put the ball in unreasonable windows for those weapons to try to make plays on. But he does still have his tendencies to lock on to certain receivers and will still try to put the ball in play on occasion when pressured. Attacking Jordan Mills at right tackle seems to have worked really well so far, but injuries all along the line have made pass protection a little more vulnerable over the year.

2) Limit Yards After Catch

The Bears seemed to get more out of their deep passing game last season than they have this year - a part of that is not having a true reliable deep threat, but they got some deep game mileage last year out of Alshon Jeffery, who apart from the rare deep play has been held to short screens and shorter routes. Wrap up and force the short play to Brandon Marshall, Jeffery, or Forte to stay a short play. Maybe the return of Marquess Wilson changes this a bit, maybe not, but the Bears' offense needs some sort of reliable deeper component, or at least better overall execution.

3) Matt Forte

Tying into that is Matt Forte, who right now between running and receiving out of the backfield is the most reliable and most used cog in the Bears' offense. The second-most rushing touches belongs to Ka'Deem Carey... with 28. In addition, Forte has ten more targets than Jeffery. Forte accounts for 43.3% of the team's intended touches (rushing attempts plus targets) and 37.1% of the team's total offensive yardage. Sure, just being a running back would by virtue of the position drive up the touches and drive down the yardage (running plays are generally lower yards-per-play after all), but in last year's offense, Forte was 37.9% of the team's intended touches.

4) Marshall and Jeffery

These two are the bigger differences in the offense. Last year, Jeffery and Marshall combined for 32.3% of the team's intended touches, with a combined 46.2% of the team's total yardage. This year, those numbers have dwindled to 25.8% of intended targets with only 34.36% of the team's total yardage. Marshall in particular has been the team's biggest disappointment after signing a four-year extension in the offseason; his 5 touchdowns are nice to see, but his yardage has been subpar all season. Both last year's and this year's Bears teams gave the top few weapons a huge amount of intended touches; with Marshall and Jeffery not finishing the same plays they made last year (physical, with contact), it's easier to make the offense stagnate.

5) Linebackers

The Bears' run defense is improved over last year, but what was once a strength of the defensive unit in years past has become a large weakness, as in a system designed to make linebackers make plays, they just haven't been able to. It's a unit that's dealt with a lot of unproductive play from starters and a lot of play from backups and street free agents due to injuries - at one point, the Bears fielded an undrafted rookie free agent, free agent Daryl Sharpton, and a former first round draft pick converting to linebacker and/or last year's fourth round pick who was subsequently benched.

6) Young Secondary

Injuries have also done a lot of damage to the back four. Starting safety Chris Conte can't stay healthy longer than two games. Charles Tillman is out for the year; Kyle Fuller aggravated a hip pointer forcing fellow undrafted rookie Al Louis-Jean to cover a number-one receiver last week. And with the way the Bears are playing coverage this year, with a lot of room to work with, especially behind the linebackers, there should be some plays to be made.

Bonus) Turnovers

Lastly, let's look at the turnover column. The Bears have committed at least two turnovers in five of their eight games so far this sesaon. Naturally, they're 0-5 in those games. They've also not gotten a takeaway in the last two games, and are 0-3 without getting a takeaway. Take the ball away from the Bears and it becomes very difficult for them to fight back.