After being terrorized in week two by Packers' linebacker Clay Matthews, quarterback Jay Cutler will once again have his head on a swivel when they travel to Dallas Monday night to face the Cowboys and all-world linebacker, DeMarcus Ware.
Both the Cowboys and Bears enter Monday night's showdown with a 2-1 record and are led by their defenses. Through three games this season, the Cowboys have held opponents to an NFL-low 250 yards per game. They are tenth in the league in sacks with seven—and Ware accounting for four of them.
Ware is arguably one of the best pass rushers of his era and sits with 103.5 sacks at the age of just 29. He may be the perfect example of a pass-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Although he is listed on the depth chart as the right outside linebacker, Ware along with left outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, has the freedom to switch sides throughout the game, which will have to keep not only J'Marcus Webb but Gabe Carimi on their toes.
The combination of Ware and Spencer can cause havoc for teams on any given gameday with their abilities to rush the passer. Inside linebackers Bruce Carter and Sean Lee have both played solid in the middle and Lee also has the ability to rush the passer, but both are much better in run defense. To take advantage of the often over-aggressiveness of the linebackers, the Bears should try and utilize the screen game as well as quick slant passes.
Along with their punishing pass rush, the Cowboys secondary has been one of the teams strongest groups. Veteran Brandon Carr was brought in during the offseason and they moved up in the draft to select Morris Claiborne. Carr has been a solid starter, with teams rarely going after him and instead focusing on attacking the young Claiborne, who has stood up well against tough competition. Carr was forced to play some safety during this past Sunday's game against the Buccaneers due to injury and Mike Jenkins filled in admirably.
Veteran safety Gerald Sensabaugh has hinted at a return this Monday from an injury (h/t ESPN Dallas), but it is still unclear what role he will have if he returns. There is a possibility that Carr will again be forced to play some safety and it should open up an opportunity for the Bears to attack whichever corner is matched against Brandon Marshall. With an influx at the safety position the Bears could also try and force the ball down field if they get the right matchup.
For how aggressive the Cowboys have been against the pass, their run defense has been in the middle of the pack, giving up over 100 yards rushing per game. The Cowboys often seem more focused on getting to the quarterback under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's defense scheme than trying to stop the run. Their defensive line consists of ends Marcus Spears and Jason Hatcher and nose tackle Josh Brent. Both ends are better suited as pass rushers while Brent is a serviceable run-stopper. The Bears should be able to take advantage of pass-rushers and blitzing schemes by implementing running back draws and delays that force the defense to think it is a pass. It is still unclear whether or not running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush will be available on Monday but even if it is Kahlil Bell, they should be able to run the football against a bad run-stopping team.
Matt Eurich is a contributor to Bearsbacker.com. Follow Bears Backer on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute news about the Bears. Also, check out Matt’s work onBleacherreport.com and follow him on Twitter @MattEurich.