Colts vs Bears: How Should Indianapolis Attack Chicago?
Jules: Nobody's gonna hurt anybody. We're gonna be like three little Fonzies here. And what's Fonzie like? Come on Yolanda what's Fonzie like?
Yolanda: He's cool.
Jules: Correctamundo. And that's what we're gonna be. We're gonna be cool.
- from Pulp Fiction
Tonight we have the last of our reverse attacks, where we use the knowledge we have of our NFC North teams to take them down or, at least to make them pay for every yard.
On paper this isn't much of a matchup.
On the one hand you have the Bears, a team that may have finally found the parts (Mike Tice and Brandon Marshall among them) they have long needed, while the Colts are embarking on what looks to be a pretty massive rebuild.
The wild card in this mix is rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. The Colts did a fairly good job of keeping older weapons (Reggie Wayne) as well as bring in a few new ones (Coby Fleener) for him to use.
The one thing you notice about Luck is his poise. He's cool in the pocket and he doesn't rattle easily, which gives him a better chance of using his weapons.
Will it be enough? How do the Colts use their new franchise quarterback to beat the Bears, and how do they slow the Bears' new offense down?
The key to winning the game is how the Colts attack those two spots.
When the Colts are on Offense
The bulk of this game—the bulk of most games for the Colts, really—will be landing squarely on the shoulders of Luck.
Luck has a strong, accurate arm and, like I said before, plays far calmer than you'd expect from any rookie, even a first-rounder. That poise is going to be very critical in overcoming what could be a very potent Bears pass rush.
Because let's face it—this offensive line has some issues, and even if it didn't, a combination of Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije, Lance Briggs and maybe Brian Urlacher is going to win a few battles against a line that consists of guys like Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn.
To help Luck out, Donald Brown is going to have to put a good game together. The Colts have made him their lead back, and it's time for him to earn his keep. If he can run effectively, then the Bears will have to focus on more than just the pass.
It's an uphill climb given how good the run defense for the Bears was last season, but it might hinge on the presence (or more accurately, the effective presence) of Urlacher.
He wasn't the only reason they were good last season, but he made a huge difference.
If Urlacher is out or appears to be playing badly because of his knee, the Colts need to attack the Bears on the ground, despite having a talent like Luck throwing the ball.
Because ultimately it's about keeping Luck standing, and the more effective the run game, the less all-out pressure the Bears can bring at the rookie.
Of course, Luck still will have to pass.
When he does, Luck has to find his open receivers quickly and accurately—he needs to attack a secondary with some real question marks.
Now here is the trap for someone looking at the Bears' pass defense, which was ranked 28th in the NFL last season. The passing yards allowed ranked 28th in the league with 254 a game and yeah, that's ugly.
However, they allowed the 13th fewest passing touchdowns and were tied for sixth in interceptions.
Generally speaking, if they don;t pick you off, they will let you run wild between the 20s and choke to death in the red zone.
So when Luck gets into the red zone, it could be hard to put a touchdown on the board.
Again, this points to needing some support from the run game, but really Luck has to work the secondary, and this is where 6'6" Coby Fleener comes in.
Fleener and Luck were both at Stanford, so they already have chemistry, and Fleener is a big, physically dynamic playmaker.
Luck needs to attack a small secondary—well, small compared to Fleener, who has an average of five inches on the Bears' starting corners and safeties.
When they get into the red zone, they have to put six points on the board almost every time, and they will do that by using Fleener's size to beat the secondary.
When the Colts are on Defense
The Colts didn't do much to improve the defense this offseason, focusing their draft picks on the offense. So it is up to a largely aging defense to slow down what looks to be a very potent offense.
The biggest weapon here is Brandon Marshall. He and Cutler were very productive when they played in Denver and look like they are ready to pick up where they left off now that they are reunited in Chicago.
So how do you stop Marshall?
The Colts are hoping they have the answer in recently acquired Vontae Davis, a former Miami teammate of Marshall's who is familiar with the receiver and has the physicality to counter Marshall's own aggressive style of play.
If they can hamper the connection between Cutler and Marshall, they will force the Bears to throw another direction. While Earl Bennett is a solid player, he and Devin Hester have limited ceilings. Rookie Alshon Jeffery is a danger, but he's still raw, and there's a good chance Jerraud Powers will be able to keep up with him.
So locking Marshall down would definitely hamper this offense and is priority number one for the Colts.
The second aim has to be to contain the Bears backfield.
The combination of Matt Forte and Micheal Bush could be one of the best in the league and will be hard to contain as Forte breaks long runs and gets them into the red zone, where Bush will hammer away.
The Colts' linebacking corps needs to be on their best game and hit the backs at the line of scrimmage, or behind if possible.
Which brings me to the final key—and really what any chance of beating this offense comes down to—can you force the offensive line to make mistakes?
New offensive coordinator Mike Tice has killed the seven-step drop and simplified the blocking scheme. Will this result in fewer quarterback hits? The preseason showed a line that allowed a lot of pressure on Cutler but few, if any, hits and no sacks.
Like the defense, it's bend but don't break.
The Colts need to bring the heat and test J'Marcus Webb at left tackle early and often. Pressuring the likes of Lance Louis at right guard and Roberto Garza at center could yield benefits as well.
Cutler can't throw if he's on his back, and Forte/Bush will be far less effective if they can't get to the hole because they are hit behind the line.
It's an uphill battle for the Colts, let's face it. That said, the Bears have some weak points at the offensive line and in the secondary. Cutler gets shaky when pressured, and if they can get to him, they give themselves a chance to keep things close.
That in turn buys Luck a chance to do his thing—and that's a chance the Bears would rather not take.
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