Even with a three game losing streak siphoning off all the good vibes the Chicago Bears built up with their 5-1 start, they’re still in a decent position to make a statement heading into their bye week. A win on Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings will get them to 6-4 and put a little pressure on the other NFC teams positioning for a wildcard spot.
Some of the WCG staffers gave their keys to the Bears pulling off the upset this week.
Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter:
Offense: Activate Lamar Miller and let him do his thing, while giving Cole Kmet an actual opportunity in the receiving game. There’s a chance David Montgomery might miss the game due to a concussion, and Miller could be ready to go this week. Lamar Miller will bring a different, more explosive skillset to the backfield. Meanwhile, it’s time to just unleash Cole Kmet, and let him prove himself of being worth an early draft pick.
Defense: Continue to own Kirk Cousins. Even when the Bears had almost all 11 spots on defense filled by backups last year, Kirk Cousins couldn’t do much at all. Khalil Mack has feasted in the 4 games played so far. Perhaps we will see an emergence of Robert Quinn while we’re at it.
Special Teams: Set Dwayne Harris up for good returns. He’s taken Ted Ginn Jr.’s job, and he’s looking to run away with it. I think the Vikings’ punt return unit will give up a big play or two during the middle of the game.
Hollow out the the pumpkin that is Kirk Cousins and create a few defensive points out of his neat pulp, or fall in graceless defeat, again, because there’s no way the Bears offense by itself scores more than 20 points.
Offense: Do... something. Anything. Find SOME way to move the ball outside of garbage time. Protect your QB any way you can, and concentrate on plays with short passing routes, and easy dump-offs. Don’t give the defense time to get to him. There was a time when Nick Foles was cool under pressure. He’s not any more. He looks more and more gun shy at the slightest hint of pressure as the weeks tick by. Not that I can completely blame him, given the state of the o-line.
Defense: It’s Kirk Cousins. The blueprint for stopping him isn’t compicated. Get within 10 feet of him and he’s liable to throw a pick. So, get within 10 feet, and catch the dang interception. Other than that, bottle up Dalvin Cook as best you can. The Bears Defense did a pretty good job doing just that to Derrick Henry.
Special Teams: All’s good here. A bit better blocking on returns would be nice, but I’m not about to get greedy given what we’ve all been through during the “Ted Ginn Era”. Just being good is good enough for me at this point.
The defense will need to win this game, since the offense is only going to score a maximum of 24 points.
Attack Kirk Cousins. Early. Often. Spook him. He will turn the ball over, he always does against this defense.
To beat the Vikings you have to beat Dalvin Cook. Stop him and Kirk Cousins will be Kirk Cousins, by that I mean turn the ball over and be below average. If you want Primetime Cousins, you have to stop Cook first and foremost.
Offense: Do your job. No, this isn’t a message to the offense in total, it’s a message to each individual offensive player — right now, the plays that are being called aren’t even getting executed, and just like how a pitcher can’t throw a curveball that doesn’t have any curve you can’t run plays with only 10 men executing correctly. These assignment issues have to stop or else nothing will change. Do your job.
Defense: Shut down the running game. In 2020, a 3 yard gain on the ground might as well be an incompletion, so if you can keep Dalvin Cook from breaking off monster runs (See: Week 8, Green Bay) you’ll put the game more on Kirk Cousins’ shoulders. And if we’ve learned anything about Cousins’ performance under the bright divisional Monday night lights.... that’s as safe a set of shoulders as the Bears could ask for.
Special Teams: Really no problems here. Keep it up.
Get Mustipher or Whitehair or Eric Kush up and running to play center. If not, turn your offensive line into a donut so it needs no center. Figure that position out, and the Bears will have a spectacled bear’s chance in a strip mall LensCrafters of leaving the day smiling.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.:
Rumors are circulating that Matt Nagy may be giving up play calling (EDIT: It’s no longer a rumor), and while that may give this offense a spark, if the players don’t execute it won’t matter. Sure there have been instances where a play call left me shaking my head, but there have been far more times where the play failed due to shoddy execution from the players.
So here’s my one and only key for this week’s game. Keep it as simple as possible because the offensive line isn’t good enough to do anything more than the basics.
This means stick with zone blocking on the runs, let Foles have some more RPOs, and go max protect on pass plays. If a corner is giving a wide out a nice cushion, then Foles has to be able to snap the ball out to him. Sure it may only be a gain of a few yards, but those quick hitters take the place of the running game, and until this o-line shows it can move someone off the line, the quick passing game has to be used to soften things up.
What are your keys to the game this week?