The Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are both 3-1, but the momentum for each team is heading in opposite directions. The Bears stumbled through their last game, losing 19 to 11 to the Colts, while the Bucs came back to beat the Chargers 38 to 31.
Thursday’s game is a big one for the Bears.
Matt Nagy will need to find a balance between his game plans that helped the Bears open up winning three straight, and in what his new quarterback, Nick Foles, likes to do.
Here are some keys from the WCG team on how the Bears can get to 4-1.
Jack R Salo
Offense: If you take away Nick Foles 90 yards passing on the Bears’ final drive - against soft coverage by the Colts - he essentially threw for 159 yards in the last game. That’s quite simply not going to cut it in the NFL. The lack of a run game surely burned the Bears, but I’ll take the role of Captain Obvious and say they need to throw the ball more efficiently. The Bucs starting defensive backs are all on their rookie contracts. Pick on them all day.
Defense: Watch your form when trying to tackle Ronald Jones II, he breaks arm tackles with the best of them. If you focus too much on Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, you’ll look up and see Scotty Miller already ran past you. Just live with what Tom Brady does and keep the Bucs’ run game stuffed.
Offense: As always, limit turnovers. I’m of the school that it will take a bit for Foles to gel with the offense, so I’m not nearly as worried about him being out-of-sync as a lot of people are. He’s better than Mitch. Foles is not the answer for the Bears, but he’s the best answer for 2020 so here we are.
Defense: Keep on keeping on. Keep up the pressure. Both Trevathan and Smith had better games again this last weekend, and we allowed less than 20 points to a team that had averaged 30+ points a game coming into the contest, so it’s mostly just continue on and keep improving against the run.
Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter
Offense: use common sense, and don’t be predictable. The Bucs are #2 against the run so far, especially inside the tackles. Matt Nagy hardly tried to run the ball off tackle in their loss against the Colts. Mix up the play calls, and actually empower Nick Foles to run the full playbook. Even if it means to play boring yet efficient football, then do it. Remove any ego and don’t dare yourself to challenge Tom Brady into a shootout.
Defense: wreck havoc up front. Tom Brady has thrown 4 pick sixes already on short routes that Kyle Fuller and Jaylon Johnson can sit on all day. If you don’t touch Tom Brady — please don’t even breathe on him unless the football is firmly in his hands at risk of getting a bunch of laundry thrown — then stick your paws up and bat the balls away. Oh, and be aggressive.
Special Teams: be disciplined, for crying out loud. The loss against the Colts featured some incredibly bad gaffes by the third phase. Don’t give Tom Brady and his assortment of (banged up) weapons a short field.
The Bears have to break the 2 yards per rush barrier against a formidable defensive line led by Vita Vea, the only player in the NFL one could argue better resembles an actual bear more closely than Akiem Hicks. If they can avoid that hunky hulk in the middle of the Buc’s line, I’ll give the Bears a grizzly’s chance in Brooks Falls Alaska of snatching a squirming floppy win with their magnificent maw.
Football is a simple game. It will always be that simple as one Editor here likes to say.
Have your Big Fat Guys beat their Big Fat Guys into submission, and you’ll probably win.
From the bottom of my heart, I do not understand the clamoring for more creativity and less predictability out of the Bears’ offensive playbook as if it’s so simple when you can’t block. Have you seen the state of the offensive line? Were you under the impression creativity and unpredictability can happen when you can’t even get a push on the basic, bare plays (like say, inside zone) that the Bears are resorted to running against quality defensive fronts? They can’t. The Bears’ script against the Colts is what you run when your Big Fat Guys can’t block. And it’s even more of an indictment of their proficiency (or lack thereof) when they’re not even capable of winning on those plays.
Either a mediocre offensive line holds its own against an underrated Tampa Bay front seven, or the Bears are slowly choked out again.
And that, definitively, is not on play calls.
This is a game of Big Fat Guys first and foremost, and always will be.
Offense: Todd Bowles likes to bring the heat. The Bucs blitz more than any other team in the league not named “Steelers”. However, their secondary is not stellar, and plays a lot of man coverage. With Nick Foles getting the ball out quicker than any other QB in the league, Matt Nagy needs to concentrate on calling short, high percentage throws to negate the pressure and take advantage of the quick release. As for the run game, I’m not gonna lie. This is gonna be a rough one. The Bucs are among the very best in running back yards allowed. A big problem last week was Nagy’s insistence on running right into the strength of the Colts D-line. Pick your spots against this Bucs front. Testing Jason Pierre-Paul on the perimeter may be a better idea than running into Ndamukong Suh.
Defense: Tom Brady is just eating up yards this season. He’s among the best in the league in both passing yards and touchdowns. He does, however, have a fairly low yards per attempt, meaning he dinks and dunks his way down the field, then punches it in. Keep an eye on Danny Trevathan and Buster Skrine, as they are likely to be the picked on heavily over the middle. Brady is a little below average in terms of how long he takes to throw, and he’s faced the lowest pressure rate in the league. So, get pressure on him. Make him throw before he’s ready to replacement receivers and tight ends, and reap the rewards. He’s been too comfortable in the pocket this year. If you let him just stand back there, it’s going to be a death by 1,000 cuts for the Bears defense.
Special Teams: Know where you’re at on the field. I know Cohen’s out, and the rest of the returners don’t have a ton of recent experience returning them, but no more letting the ball bounce at your feet, on the 15, with defenders around. That’s asking for disaster. Fair catches exist for a reason.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.
This Bears team had some success running the ball on outside zone plays this year, and when calling play action passing as well, so let’s just not scrap what worked because there’s a new quarterback in the game.
While Nick Foles was 8-of-10 on play-action passes, he was just 18-of-32 on all other throws (56%).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 5, 2020
Mitchell Trubisky, the QB that Foles replaced, completed a league-worst 53% of non-play-action passes in his 3 starts this season. pic.twitter.com/SwWHKu8Bor
Play action, which has been proven time and time again to not need a great running game to succeed, should be a big part of the plan against the Bucs. Foles may not be a bootleg threat that Trubisky is, but getting him moving and in a rhythm will help him get a better feel for the defense. That along with a few more RPOs, as that is one of Foles’ strengths, and the offense will keep Tampa Bay’s defense guessing.
What are some of your keys to the game this week?