Can the Chicago Bears use the formula of defense and running the ball to have a successful rest of the season? Of course, the “softer” part of the schedule still lays ahead of the team. However, I just cannot see this formula for success being sustainable for another 10 games.
The Bears defense has played well this season, despite some pretty poor situations courtesy of the offense. Besides the Falcons — who have struggled — and the Packers, have they really faced a tough test this season? Maybe the Buccaneers but then again, the early turnovers really stressed the defense.
On the other side, running the ball on 66.7% of your called offensive plays, is simply not effective in 2017’s iteration of the NFL. The play-calling has been questionable at best lately, but the personnel groupings, down and distance situations, and formations are giving away the plays before the snap. The Bears need to find some balance as the season wears on, if they are going to have any success moving forward.
What to Watch For
On offense, keep an eye on trends. The Bears are running the ball a whopping 78.8% of the time on 1st down. The trend with 3 tight ends in the formation and running the ball, skews even farther at 86.4%. The Bears are woefully predictable right now and that is not helping the run or the pass. It is also killing the offensive line’s ability to dominate a game.
Because the trends are there, and completely one-sided, this would seem like the perfect time to try something different — and I don’t mean trick plays. If these trends continue, expect to be shut down by mediocre teams, which makes up basically the remainder of the schedule.
Defensively, I want to see the secondary continue to play with the confidence they have shown the past 2 weeks. The current group with Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Eddie Jackson, and Adrian Amos, appears to be playing well as a unit. It was obvious on tape that the younger players were beaming with confidence. I want to see them continue to play with the swagger that they showed against the Vikings and Ravens.
That said, the Panthers are likely going to want to run the ball a little more. The key to this will be keeping Cam Newton in check. Outside of 2 games this season, Newton has really struggled in the passing game. He has thrown 8 interceptions on the season and this could be another opportunity for the secondary to come up big. But the key to slowing this offense down, is to keep Newton’s running ability in-check.
Who to Watch
Charles Leno Jr.: Julius Peppers is having his best season in years. He already has 6.5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and 9 quarterback hurries. Typically, Peppers is lined up on the defensive right-side of the formation, which would pit him against Leno. This will be an interesting matchup, especially with Ron Rivera’s propensity to blitz. Hopefully Dowell Loggains has figured out how to fix the protection schemes. So far, there have been any number of very questionable calls there.
Kendall Wright: This is undoubtedly the best wide receiver on this roster currently. Early in the season, Wright was used a lot on crossing routes in the middle of the field and he was open often. The Bears offense needs to get back to that in order to be successful. Look for Wright to have a big game soon, heres hoping that it starts tomorrow afternoon.
Leonard Floyd: Floyd was seemingly absent from last weeks game. Sure, he was OK and wasn’t out of position, but he wasn’t drafted 9th overall to be “in-position.” He was drafted that high to make plays. He is going to have to hunt down Cam Newton and take advantage of a poor Panthers offensive line. The key for Floyd is going to be getting Newton on the ground when he hits him.
Adrian Amos: Amos had arguably his best game as a professional last week. In watching the film again, he played aggressively, made quick reads, and was decisive in his breaks. My hope is that he will continue to build on this momentum. I always thought that Amos could succeed in a strong safety role — specifically closer to the line of scrimmage — and so far, he has. The pairing of Eddie Jackson and Amos could be a good one if they play to their ability.
Keys to the Game
Counter Moves: Clearly this wasn’t properly utilized last week. As noted above, the trends point to being able to seriously exploit what opposing defenses have been doing to them this season — stack the box and crash down with the ends. Given the lack of respect for the passing game, there would seem to be a number of counter moves that the Bears could employ. They should stay away from bootlegs for now, they are being anticipated. They need to flip the trends upside down, play-action passes, throwing on first down, counter runs, end-arounds, shotgun runs, under-center passes. There are a lot of ways to buck the trend and catch a team off-guard.
Generating Turnovers: The Bears finally broke through last week with 3 takeaways — including 2 interceptions!!! This will need to become more of a regularity if they plan to play offense the way they did last week. The coaching staff can make all the excuses they want, but running the ball that much is not a way to win in the NFL unless you have a really good defense. A defense that takes the ball away with regularity. If the secondary is jelling for real, then this is certainly a possibility. I want to see more.
The X-Factor: The special teams units were especially poor last week. They will need to help supplement the offense and defense with the Fox-ball style they are currently running with. Not only do the returners need to provide some momentum plays and help the field position, but the coverage teams need to do their job. The term “hidden yardage” comes into play with coverage units. They can get lost in the shuffle sometimes, but when you are playing close, low-scoring games, you need to be able to utilize special teams as a weapon.