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Week 9 game preview: Bears-Titans

Last time the Bears were in Nashville, fans drank the town dry, but if they do it again it will be to drown the sorrow of watching this offense...

Tennessee Titans v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

The Bears are not in a good spot and neither is their fanbase.

The angst is real.

The offense is still sputtering, getting in its own way and overall just sucking.

But the competition has been tougher too. This was always going to be their toughest stretch of games and it’s shaped up to be that. Now they have to travel to Nashville and take on the Titans, who were in the AFC title game a year ago, in case you forgot. But this hasn’t been the same Titans team, their defense has looked vulnerable, although the offense has picked up some of that slack.

The Titans aren’t all that dissimilar to the Bears, offense aside. They’ve been in all of their games, save for getting slapped around by the Bengals last week.

Both come in with legitimate questions about their winning records, both have had unlikely comeback wins and cardiac moments late in games. Both have good defenses that have been leaky at times (although the Bears unit is demonstrably better top to bottom). Both come in having lost two in a row.

It should be a good match up Sunday.

Tennessee Titans

SB Nation site: Music City Miracles

Record: 5-2. first in the AFC South

Last week: 31-20 loss to Joe Burrow and the Bengals

Game day, time, TV: Sunday, noon CT, FOX

Bears all-time record against: 6-6

Historical meetings: Since offensive fireworks aren’t the norm for the Bears, let’s look back at a game that featured some.

Week 8 1995, the Bears hosted the Houston Oilers at Soldier Field. The Bears came in at 4-2, Houston 2-4.

The Bears opened a 25-0 lead with under 5 minutes to play in the second quarter. They scored in about every possible way; three field goals, a receiving TD, a rushing TD and a safety.

The Oilers got back into the game with a touchdown pass of their own and a 98-yard interception return for a TD.

In the third, the Oilers scored twice more to come within three, but the Bears went on a 73-yard touchdown drive that started at 5:23 of the third and ended at 2:11 of the fourth.

A late Oiler touchdown made it 35-32 but the Bears held on for the win.

Last meeting: I remembered bits of this game, but damn the box score reminds me how much I blocked out of this game.

The Bears lost 27-21 in week 12 of 2016 at Soldier Field.

Here’s the ugly parts: Matt Barkley started for the Bears and threw the ball 54 (!!) times. He threw three touchdowns (to TE Daniel Brown, WR Marquess WIlson and WR Deonte Thompson), but also threw two picks.

The Bears got the ball back just after the two minute warning and Barkley managed to drive Chicago to the Tennessee seven yard line but despite hitting Josh Bellamy wide open in the chest between the 1 and the 1 on his jersey and then getting a ball into Thompson on fourth down, neither receiver could hold on to said balls and the Bears lost.

Injury report: The Titans had nine players on their Wednesday injury report, but three were full participants and likely won’t miss the game. Here are the ones that are hurt:

Did not participate: DE Jadeveon Clowney (knee), WR Adam Humphries (concussion), T Dennis Kelly (knee), P Brett Kern (wrist), CB Kareem Orr (illness), DL Jeffery Simmons (ankle)

Offense: The Titans come into the game with the sixth ranked offense in points scored and fifth in yards.

Their rushing offense is ranked fourth and their passing offense ranks 18th.

Led by QB Ryan Tannehill (67.4 pct. cmp./1,823 yds./17 TD/3 INT), who is finding a second life in the NFL in Nashville, is effective at running this Arthur Smith offense. Having Derrick Henry (161 att./775 yds./8 TD) of course helps, especially opening up play action.

Tannehill’s weapons include WR Corey Davis (29 rec./369 yds./3 TD), WR A.J. Brown (27/256/5), WR Adam Humphries (22/219/2) and TE Jonnu Smith (22/272/5).

The Titans have made their bread butter a healthy dose of Henry (leads the league in rushing attempts and yards and is second in touchdowns) followed by play action and deep shots on the outside. Tannehill is top 10 in adjusted yards per pass attempt, adjusted net yards per pass attempt and net yards per attempt.

The Tennessee offensive line is also a strong unit, allowing Tannehill to have the fourth best sack percentage.

Keep in mind that he also leads the league in game-winning drives and comebacks.

Defense: The Titans defense comes into the game struggling, ranking 25th in yards allowed and 18th in points allowed.

Their rushing offense ranks 22nd and their passing defense ranks 27th.

This should come as welcome news to the Bears’ offense that has managed to make scoring against the worst of defenses seem difficult, but have faced stiff competition in recent weeks.

The Titans defense has struggled to generate pressure, averaging one sack per game, but should be licking its chops as they face an absolutely decimated Bears offensive line.

Jeffery Simmons (2 sk/2 TFL/9 QB hits) leads the unit along with Harold Landry (1.5 sk/4 TFL/8 QB hits) and Jadeveon Clowney (6 QB hits/3 TFL/1 FF).

The defense also features CB Malcolm Butler (2 INT/9 PD/49 tkl), Amari Hooker (2 INT/3 PD), Jayon Brown (55 tkl/6 PD/1 INT/1 FF) and Kevin Byard (4 PD/39 tkl/1 FF).

Key match ups: Mike Vrabel vs. Matt Nagy. This may seem simplistic or very lopsided, depending on how cynical you are, but Vrabel is a very good young coach in this league and is incredible at manipulating the clock for his advantage.

Nagy has struggled since he was hired with in-game management, adjustments and clock management but both the Titans and Bears have had loads of comebacks and close games this year and this one could very well fall into the same category.

For the Bears offense, Jeffery Simmons against Rashaan Coward is going to be the match up that could sink the Bears. Although with their offensive line so decimated the whole unit is going to be a match up problem with the advantage going to Tennessee, but their pass rush has not been good.

On defense, you have to stop Derrick Henry, he is their offense, he’s the cog that makes it all go.

Key stats:

  • The Titans have the second-fewest sacks in the league with seven and the sixth-least hurry percentage
  • The Titans boast the second best red zone offense in the league, while the Bears are the number one red zone defense
  • The Titans are dead last in the league in third down defense, allowing opponents to convert at an absurd 61.9 percent clip, but luckily for them the Bears will do their best to bring that percent down with their second-to-last third down offense
  • Henry has four 100 yard rushing games this year and the Titans have been held under 100 team rushing yards only once this year. The Bears have held an opponent to less than 100 team rushing yards only once this season (week two vs. Giants)
  • Tannehill has been sacked only eight time this season

Will the Bears offense look competent against a lesser defense? Can their defense slow down Derrick Henry and get after Ryan Tannehill?