Chicago Bears' Key to the Game on Defense: Pass-Rushing Depth Needs to Produce
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The Packers are on a two-game losing streak and they’ve lost primarily because of the pass rush the Giants and 49ers were able to generate. Rodgers, like any quarterback, doesn’t do well under pressure, so the Bears’ pressure needs to be constant.
The main key in this game won’t be either Julius Peppers or Henry Melton, it will be what the players backing up those two contribute.
Last week against the Colts, the Bears got a lot of pressure on Andrew Luck. Luck was sacked three times and hit six other times in the game, while facing constant pressure from the Bears’ front four.
What was concerning, however, was the lack of pass rush late in the game from the front four. Julius Peppers tired out, and Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin weren’t consistent with their pressure in the fourth quarter.
Wootton had a decent game, while Shea McClellin struggled mightily for the fourth straight game. McClellin had one pressure and a hit on Luck but didn’t do much else when he was on the field.
After a sparkling debut in the first game of the preseason, McClellin has fallen back into what he was criticized for at the beginning of training camp. His pass rush has not been as expected and he needs to up his play to help relieve the weight of Peppers having to perform game in and game out.
There is more to the Bears' pass rush than just the defensive ends, there’s the depth at DT. Nate Collins and Amobi Okoye both seem capable of getting pressure up the middle and directly into Rodgers’ face.
Collins did not play due to a suspension, while Okoye was in the process of getting reacquainted with the Bears after being cut from the Buccaneers. Okoye had only a few days to get back up to game speed after missing three preseason games while recovering from arthroscopic surgery.
What the Bears need to do is keep the game close on the scoreboard on offense. Avoid getting into a shootout by playing fundamental defense and try to get as far out ahead on the scoreboard as possible.
If the Bears get out ahead by a touchdown or more late, that will help the defense in the fourth quarter. Forcing the Packers to try and rally late in the game will give the Bears more room for error from their pass rush.
At all costs, the Bears want to avoid putting Rodgers in a two-minute offense situation where he can get Jermichael Finley heavily involved in the passing game. The likely key to this game will be the Bears winning the time of possession battle on offense by running the ball with Forte and Bush.
Either way, the Bears will be best served not playing from behind, but trying to kill the clock while out ahead.
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