Bears vs. Packers: Sketching out a Game Plan for Chicago
The Bears started slow against the Indianapolis Colts, but ended up beating them pretty handily—and are now confident enough to talk some significant trash right before the game against a team that has dominated the division for several years.
I like the gumption but I might also like to see a guy poke a hive of bees with a stick and watch the result as well so maybe my judgement isn't worth a darn.
Just because they are boasting, don't think for a second that the Bears are taking the Packers lightly.
They'll be preparing for their hated rivals no matter how confident they feel.
The plan of attack to beat Green Bay might look a little like this.
When the Bears Are on Offense
The key to winning this game offensively comes down to Jay Cutler and how they can protect him. If he's upright, they can move the ball effectively with all their weapons. If he's counting clouds while laying on his back? Not so much.
The Bears offensive line, like the rest of the offense, started a bit slow. Both tackles struggled a little early on. At right tackle Gabe Carimi was flagged for a false start on the opening drive while J'Marcus Webb had his hands full with Dwight Freeney and Rashean Mathis. Even tight end Kellen Davis struggled when coming to assist, as we are about to see.
On the play, Davis lines up next to Webb to help him out with the left side of the Colts defensive line. The fullback pulls to the left while Matt Forte comes in on a play action then cuts across the line to the left.
The rest of the line pushes out and to the right. Davis mirrors Mathis as Mathis slides towards the center of the line.
It's a lot to ask to have a tight end block a guy like Mathis solo.
Not surprisingly, Davis is overmatched. You can see in this next screen grab that Mathis is bulling his way past Davis, while Forte moves out to pick up a defender coming in off the edge.
The final screen shot shows Mathis just about on top of Cutler. Take note of the three—yes, three—offensive linemen blocking one pass-rusher.
The Bears will face a pass rush that sacked Alex Smith four times behind a better line than the Bears have.
They have to work harder to keep him upright.
Now, the way to counter the pass rush the Packers will bring is the same way the Niners did—lots of short passes into the flat, bubble screens and short crossing and drag routes.
The Packers secondary is a bit of a mess and don't seem to have settled into their new roles.They also seem to have a habit of playing too far off the receivers, or did last week. Brandon Marshall in particular will kill them if they try that with him.
Cutler has reduced the time he has the ball by shortening his steps in the drop and making quicker decisions. That, coupled with a short pass game, should keep the chains moving and also force the defense—especially Clay Matthews and Nick Perry—into coverage rather than rushing the passer.
Perry spent a ton of time in coverage last week, not one of his strengths. Force that and the Bears can attack him as well.
Once the defense has to lay off Cutler a little, he can air the ball out more effectively to Alshon Jeffery on a long pass or Earl Bennett.
Of course, Matt Forte and Micheal Bush will be involved as well and the Bears will use the combination to grind the clock down and keep the Packers offense off the field. Sure the Packers were out of sync last week, but there's no point in kidding yourself that's going to happen every week.
Forte and Bush can drain the clock as well as help keep the defense honest and off the pass.
When the Bears Are on Defense
The Bears will want to keep the Packers off balance. The Green Bay offensive line didn't have its best game last Sunday and they'll want to bring Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs in from the edges as much as possible.
However, San Francisco threw in some interesting wrinkles as well, and we'll look at one the Bears might use this week.
Pre-snap, the Niners are in a 3-4 formation, however, the fourth man in the formation is out to the right of the rest of the front seven.
If you watched the game closely, you may have noticed a distinct lack of Patrick Willis. The Niners wanted an extra defensive back in the game, though often that back acted as a linebacker.
Most of the time, Willis came out for Perrish Cox, but in this case, it's Carlos Rogers who steps into the linebacker position. So you still have a 3-4 formation, but Rogers is the fourth linebacker and appears to be set up over the slot receiver.
However, when the ball is snapped, Cox immediately abandons coverage and beelines for Aaron Rodgers. His receiver is picked up by a safety, so if Rodgers had seen Cox or the open receiver he could have thrown for a quick gain.
This was a blitz from the blindside though, so Rodgers never sees Cox coming. Interestingly, John Kuhn the fullback is blocking on the right side, though had he been on the left to pick Cox up, Rodgers likely still would have been sacked.
By the time Rodgers sees Cox, it's too late.
The Bears would do well to emulate things like this as they clearly attacked the edges of the offensive line with more speed than it could handle. Chicago has the tools to attack the offense in this fashion and very effectively to boot.
Of course, had the tight end along the left side of the line stayed in to block, Cox might have been stymied, but the Packers are aggressive play-callers and more often than not, they will roll the dice just like this.
Another page from the San Francisco book they should copy is playing the physical style of defense, which threw off a lot of Rodgers' receivers, especially tight end Jermichael Finley. Finley had two critical drops Sunday and part of that was clearly due to the tight and physical coverage he endured.
While Randall Cobb and James Jones can play physical, both can get worn down and occasionally thrown off their game by a hard-hitting defensive back.
The Bears need only look at tape of last week's Packers game to get an idea of what might befuddle and beat them. Chicago has plenty of time to tweak the plans the Niners had and spin them in a different way.
However, the template is here and they would be wise to study it closely.
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