The Chicago Bears look to rebound from a poor performance in week three against the St. Louis Rams. The Rams are coming off a victory against the Washington Redskins and now look to build upon that as they come into Soldier Field.
The offensive line and play of Jay Cutler will be key for the Bears but there are other key factors as well. The Bears will win if they stay on track or will lose if they can not execute. Here is where the game will be won or lost.
Whether the Bears think the Rams are a good team or not doesn't matter. What does matter is if they take the pesky team for granted. The Rams put up a good effort against the Lions in week one and knocked off a Redskin team who beat the Saints.
The Rams have a different demeanor under Jeff Fisher. There is a little more of a nasty edge to them and they have proven they will battle with you for 60 minutes. If the Bears treat them like the Colts then they will be primed for an upset.
St. Louis will not be one of the better teams the Bears see this season but they are far from the worst. The Bears need to respect what they can do and make sure they play hard for the entire game to avoid a loss.
We've seen two slow starts by the Bears in their first two games this season. In the first week they were able to overcome it but the second really hurt them. The Bears can really kill the spirits of the Rams early with a quick start.
Offensive line issues and turnovers aside, the Bears still have a high powered offense. The Rams defense has some quality young players but they are very vulnerable especially in the passing game. Stringing together a couple quality drives early on can make this a non-competitive game sooner than later.
Look for the Bears to take advantage of the Rams aggressive corners. Courtland Finnegan and rookie Janoris Jenkins have an affinity to gamble and over pursue causing them to give up big plays in the passing game.
Rams defensive end Chris Long has yet to record a sack this year but he is still considered one of the league's premier pass rushers. If the Bears want to keep him at zero sacks then they should consider rolling Jay Cutler away from him as much as possible.
You won't see Long move around as much as Clay Matthews and that's a benefit to the Bears. This allows Mike Tice to design plays that will roll Cutler away from Long or allow a back or tight end to provide help.
Now just because you focus on Long doesn't mean you neglect the other side of the ball. Rookie Robert Quinn has two sacks already and is looking much like a guy who could end the season in double digits. Gabe Carimi will have to step up and slow the rookie down virtually on his own.
With Matt Forte still nursing an ankle injury expect Michael Bush to be the primary back. He has a more physical style than Forte and the Bears should use that to their advantage.
The Bears are going to be able to wear down the Rams upfront and allow their struggling offensive line to get into a groove. Look for Mike Tice to control the game with a steady diet of Bush. This should open up more playaction options for Cutler and his receivers.
This can work two fold. The Bears can let their offensive line gain some confidence by allowing them to push off the ball early on and they can slow down a Rams pass rush who might be looking to over-pursue early on.
St. Louis is giving up 129.5 yards on the ground already this year. The Bears should not have an issue running the ball against the Rams.
Going up against a guy like Courtland Finnegan fires up any wide receiver. He's annoying, pesky and likes to get into his opponent's head. Let Brandon Marshall have his way with Finnegan.
Marshall struggled to get going against the Packers and was so out of touch in the game he dropped a touchdown pass he normally hauls in. Let him get going early against the Rams. Marshall is a fiery guy, and it's time for the Bears to use that to their advantage.
Whatever the Bears can do to get the ball in Marshall's hands early is a must. From there he's going to be fired up and frustrate Finnegan the entire game. If they don't get him the ball then you play into Finnegan's game.
Sam Bradford looked way too comfortable in his last game against the Redskins. They got him for two sacks but he was still able to get 35 pass attempts off completing 26 of them.
If Bradford is going to drop back that many times the Bears cannot come away with only two sacks and three quarterback hits. The defensive line has done a fine job so far against Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers and they are going to need to continue the pressure in week three.
Bradford finished with 310 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception against the Redskins. Against the Lions he had only one touchdown pass and under 200 yards. He was also sacked four times and hit eight. You do the math.
Unless you were in a bubble or don't play fantasy football, you know Danny Amendola had a big day against the Redskins. He beat them to the tune of 15 receptions on 16 targets for 160 yards and a touchdown.
Plain in simple, that can't happen against the Bears. If Amendola is targeted that many times again then there is a breakdown in coverage. If Sam Bradford wants to stare down one guy that many times the Bears secondary better be ready to have multiple interceptions.
This is no discredit to what Amendola did. He had a fantastic game and should be commended for it. Now that that's done, the Bears will look to limit his catches to under 10 and force Bradford to throw the ball to more questionable players.
There will be no Steven Jackson against the Bears but that doesn't mean they can let up. Rookie Daryl Richardson is a shifty back who worked the Redskins last week with 83 yards on 15 carries.
Richardson should be on the Bears' radar because he comes from Abilene Christian. As you remember the team drafted Daniel Manning and Johnny Knox from there. They have also had a couple other players from the school in their camps in recent past.
Richardson will get the bulk of the carries after beating out fellow rookie Isaiah Pead for the backup position. He has decent speed and power but does put the ball on the ground from time to time. The Bears cannot allow the young man to gain any kind of momentum early on.
Turnovers are and will always be the most obvious and important stat in the NFL. When you win the turnover battle, you will most likely win the football game.
Even when the Bears were struggling against the Packers they were still in the game. When did they stop being in it? When Jay Cutler decided to throw into double coverage off his back foot. It ultimately led to four interceptions from him.
The Packers were able to eventually break the game open, largely due to the Bears turning the ball over. The defense was able to get two takeaways against the Packer offense but they were worn down by the Packers four extra opportunities on offense.
Cutler and the offense are going to have to take better care of the football. Even if the line plays poorly that is no excuse for poor throws, bad reads and panic heaves into the secondary. Make Sam Bradford be the guy who has the bulk of the mistakes in the game.
Against the Packers, Lovie Smith and his staff were out-coached. Jay Cutler lost his cool, Devin Hester seemed irritated on the return game, the special teams let Tom Crabtree score on a fake field goal, and Brandon Marshall dropped a sure touchdown.
It was a complete mental breakdown for the Bears. This week they have no reason not to be ready. They have had an extended amount of time to be ready for the Rams and they have to show people their effort against the the Packers was an anomaly.
Whatever the issue is with Cutler and his left tackle or the team needs to be put to the side. The coaching staff headed by Smith has to do a better job of preparing the football team. Mike Tice needs to get into an offensive groove earlier than the two recent game. Focus on the task at hand and the Bears will win the game easily.