On Sunday the 0-1 Chicago Bears are looking to get their season back on track against the 1-0 Cincinnati Bengals, and while it’s only the second week of the season, and every other NFC North team lost as well, the Bears need to get the taste of that Los Angeles beatdown out of their mouths.
Dropping the season opener in that manner, especially with the ‘when will Justin Fields play’ drama surrounding the franchise, just magnifies everything happening in the Windy City. If the Bears start 0-2 the pressure to turn to Fields will be palpable.
The Bears are favored at home, and this is a game they should win, so let’s check in on our team’s keys for how Chicago’s team can pull out the W.
We got things kicked off an an interesting fashion this week.
Josh Sunderbruch: The Bears are losing games for all the wrong reasons. They’ve lost their edge. All right, I know their manager has them all messed up inside, but the truth is they don’t look hungry.
Now when they won before, they had that eye of the tiger, man, the edge. And now they gotta get it back, and the way to get it back is to go back to the beginning. You know what I mean?
If you need a reminder, here’s Josh’s key from last week. I sense a theme...
Patti Curl: As Josh put so eloquently, the Bears are missing the eye of the tiger. The key to the game, and the season, is to get the eye back in the most literal way possible. By taking it from the tiger itself. The Bengals mascot, “Who Dey,” has two eyes right now. Come Monday morning, he better not have more than one.
Robert Zeglinski: I don’t know what to say, really.
A few days to one of the Bears’ biggest professional moments of their lives. Some of it comes down to Sunday.
Either they heal as a team, or they are going to crumble. Inch by inch, play by play. Until they’re finished. They are in hell right now, ladies and gentlemen. Believe me. And they can stay there and get the shit kicked out of them, or they can fight their way back into the light.
They can climb out of hell, one inch at a time.
Well played RZ...
Sam Householder: Look, I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re in hell but they’re definitely in head coach conscripted purgatory. Waiting, waiting, waiting for enlightenment and absolution of their offensive sins. Looking at the numbers from last week, the Cincinnati receivers are going to give the Bears’ secondary another run for its money, but their o-line is worse, so let’s see the big buck passer rushers on the Bears have a day. Joe Burrow will make you pay, though if they can’t. The Cincy secondary should also allow Andy Dalton to push the ball down the field more, should their playcaller let them. They should have running room too, provided they don’t let the Bengals build a lead like Minnesota did.
ECD: Somehow, someway, this Chicago Bears team has a bigger identify crisis than what we witnessed in each of the past two seasons. The highest paid defense in the league laid a fat egg at Los Angeles this past opening weekend. All these attempts by Matt Nagy to keep Andy Dalton as his starting QB, without any solid justification, is wearing people out. The easiest solution is right in front of Nagy - let Justin Fields take over as the QB. Players and even assistants seem to be gathering against Nagy’s stubbornness to stick with “the plan” at QB. If Nagy doesn’t take action soon, he could face a situation comparable to Marc Trestman, albeit I don’t think the situation will turn nearly as volatile. Just let the young star at QB emerge. Everything else will fall into place soon enough.
Bill Zimmerman: The Chicago Bears defense was humiliated by Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford. The secondary proved they would struggle covering receivers from Joliet Catholic let alone ones from an NFL team.
The Rams were held to one 3-and-out the entire game, and what happened on that particular series? There was a sack. That’s the only way to save this poor secondary: get to the quarterback.
The Bengals offensive line might be a little better from last year but it’s still pretty porous. If the Bears front gets to Burrow, they’ll win the game. If not, Burrow’s going to throw for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Robert Schmitz: On defense, the Bears need to pressure Burrow. Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Ja’Marr Chase are every bit as talented (if not more) as the Rams’ WR corps, so #52, #94, and #96 need to bring their A-game. If Burrow gets 3+ seconds to consistently throw, the Bears’ secondary is going to struggle.
On offense, the Bears need to get vertical however possible. The Rams’ talented Quarters-base defense denied any and all deep attempts, but the Bengals’ secondary is not the Rams’ and should be the Bears’ primary target. I’d also like to see them iterate on the creativity they used in the run game last week, but deep passing (15+ yards) comes first.
In the locker room: Matt Nagy has to walk a fine line between trying to get Fields through the Browns game unscathed (I think it’s obvious that’s his intention at this point) without outright losing his players’ buy-in. If Marquise Goodwin’s scheme-related comments and Bill Lazor’s “from the outside looking in” presser tell us anything, it sounds like the locker room is (understandably) fading on Nagy’s plan — should it come to it, just play Fields. Personally, I think he’s good enough to figure things out as he goes.
Jacob Infante: If the Bears lose against the Bengals this week, it will likely have been because of their inability to stop Cincinnati’s passing game.
With a gifted, young quarterback and a trio of talented weapons at wide receiver, the Bengals are a legitimate threat against a Bears secondary that struggled mightily against the Rams. To nullify said threat as much as possible, the pass-rush will have to show up more than it did last week. The Bengals don’t necessarily have a strong offensive line, so if the Bears can blow plays up and penetrate the backfield early and often, that can help them prevent an onslaught through the air.
T.J. Starman: There were very few positive takeaways from the Bears opening week performance, but the biggest standout was David Montgomery. The key for this game, and for at least as long as Fields is on the bench, is to operate the offense through the running game. Doing so can help this questionable offensive line build confidence through run blocking and make the Bengals defense have to adjust to punishing runs. This should open up passing opportunities and allow the Bears wide receiver corps to show off that much advertised speed increase. The offensive gameplan should be this simple: feed Montgomery, embrace play action, and maybe sprinkle in some routes run beyond 15 yards for a change.
Aaron Leming: For me, the objective is close to what it was last week. They must win the battle in the trenches, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Yes, their defense is not the same unit it was but they still have plenty of talent on the front seven and they need to consistently get home to Joe Burrow. If they can get to the young quarterback early and often, it should help limit the Bengals’ good passing attack. Offensively, they have to keep Andy Dalton clean and allow him enough time to actually get the ball down the field against a lesser defense.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: The Bears have a quarterback in Dalton that is capable of reading the field, but they’re still unsure about the pass protection from their offensive line, so stop dropping Dalton straight back for the quick throws. More play action, more bootlegs, keep an extra blocker or two in on occasion, more moving pockets, and did I mention more play action?
Only one team in the NFL attempted fewer than the 3 play action passes the Bears did week one, and that’s inexcusable. It’s been proven through the years that an effective running game has no bearing on whether you can successfully run play action or not, but the Bears seemed to have no interest in it last week. And this is in a game that they were actually running the ball.
What are some of your keys for the Bears to win on Sunday?