St Louis Rams vs. Chicago Bears: Sketching out a Game Plan for Chicago
It seems like it's been a very long time between games for the Chicago Bears, in part because it's been a week and we've still got two-and-a-half more days to go and in part because the Jay Cutler thing won't die.
The Bears will be glad to hit the field this Sunday and get back to the business of playing football, hoping to wipe away the disaster than was last week.
It seems like a gimme game, but the Rams have played like anything but.
They boast a solid defense and a surprisingly decent offense.
This game could easily be a trap game for the Bears and coming off a rough loss to the division rival Packers, it's one they can ill afford to lose.
So with that in mind, here's how they avoid falling to 1-2.
When the Bears Are on Offense
The Rams front seven, with James Laurinaitus, Chris Long and Robert Quinn, is a stiff bunch.
While none of the three named guys are Clay Matthews, it would behoove the offense to bring in some help to counter them and assist J'Marcus Webb.
The line has been lukewarm and cold and the Rams can pressure—and Jay Cutler does not do well under pressure.
Along with some tight end and fullback help to block, some short outlet passes to guys like Mike Bush, Matt Forte (if his ankle doesn't put him out for Sunday) and Brandon Marshall on drag or crossing routes where he can use his size to overcome the defense.
The Rams have also put together a very good cornerback duo of Cortland Finnegan and rookie Janoris Jenkins. Finnegan is especially tough because he has a real penchant for getting under player's skin (see Josh Morgan's game losing penalty last week).
He will line up several places and likely see both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and by no means can they afford to make Josh Morgan's mistake.
While the Rams secondary is better than it has been, it can still be beat long. If the offensive line can give Cutler time, he should be able to go vertical with either player, and successfully.
Keeping Cutler upright and on his feet are the primary concerns of this game. If he can stay standing, he should be able to move the ball even on a tougher than expected defense.
When the Bears Are on Defense
The Rams' offensive line has it's own issues. Their left tackle—Wayne Hunter—isn't very good, and right now he's also not healthy.
The Bears should pressure the left side of the line as much as possible, sending Shea McClellin or Israel Idonije in often, while having Julius Peppers come from the other side.
As they play a Cover-2, the Bears spend a lot of time dropping linebackers into coverage on passing downs. Doing that allows them to drop almost a five deep zone, which will really hamper a subpar group of receivers. If the Rams adjust and start throwing to their tight ends across the middle or on short outs, the Bears can have the corners play tighter in or bring the linebackers into direct coverage.
If you want solid understanding of how it works (and when it doesn't) you can check out the video here from National Football Post, which Matt Bowen put together. It's a perfect explanation of what I am getting at in terms of coverage.
All that leaves is Steven Jackson, who is questionable right now with a groin issue. If Jackson plays, the linebackers have to be cognizant of when he is catching the ball as much as running it. Jackson is dangerous in both facets.
If he's not in, life is easier, though Daryl Richardson showed promise last week. He's not Jackson, however, so the defense will be able to take advantage of that.
Sam Bradford has looked much better lately, but he still has a shaky offensive line and some questionable receivers. The Bears should be able to get to him often and cover his receivers all day.
As I said at the top, this is a bit of a trap game. It's nowhere near as easy as it appears on paper. The Rams have started to play well and the Bears are in the midst of some chaos.
That said, if they protect Cutler and Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery get some separation , they should be able to move the ball pretty consistently.
Defensively this is a group that can get at the quarterback and cannot let Bradford have time to set up and pick the secondary apart. The Bears' secondary is something I didn't spend any real time on, but it's a group that has played well this year for the most part.
Still, the best coverage can only cover for so long before it breaks down if the quarterback has all day. So getting at Bradford is a must.
The Bears are looking to bounce back from a tough divisional loss and wash the taste of the intervening week out of their mouths.
A big win here would just about have that covered.
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