The Bears offense struggled at times under the guidance of Jay Cutler, who returned to the field following a groin injury he suffered three weeks prior against the Washington Redskins. He was pulled late in the fourth quarter after going 21-of-40 for 250 yards with one touchdown and one interception in favor of Josh McCown.
The Ravens are coming off a 20-17 overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals that helped them improve to 4-5 on the season.
Chicago and Baltimore have met just five times since the Ravens were established in 1996. The series is knotted at two games a piece, with the home team winning each of the previous four contests.
This Sunday, the Bears will try to improve to 6-4 on the season and try to keep themselves in the playoff hunt as they sit behind the Lions in the NFC North and trail the Carolina Panthers (6-3) and San Francisco 49ers (6-3) in the wild-card race.
In order to beat the Ravens and improve their record, they will need to look at what other teams have done successfully against the Ravens this season to have an effective game plan.
Get Pressure on Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco was clutch during the playoffs last season, and the protection from his offensive line helped him lead his team to a Super Bowl victory and a brand new six-year, $120.6 million contract in the offseason.
His offensive line has been plagued by inconsistent play and injuries, and it has hindered Flacco's play for much of the season.
The team traded for left tackle Eugene Monroe earlier in the season but had to place Kelechi Osemele on injured reserve last week for a back injury, per The Baltimore Sun. Center Gino Gradkowski, guard Marshall Yanda and right tackle Michael Oher have all been average at best this season, giving up 30 sacks, including 10 in the last two games.
This past Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, they allowed five sacks and both Yanda and Oher struggled in their pass protection.
Late in the second quarter, the Ravens set up with their "11" personnel (three wide receivers, one running back, one tight end), while the Bengals were in their nickel package with three cornerbacks, two linebackers and four down linemen (pictured below).
The left side of the offensive line held up well but both Yanda and Oher struggled against Carlos Dunlap. The cornerbacks were able to keep the wide receivers in check, and due to the pressure, Flacco was forced outside of the pocket (pictured below).
Without an open receiver downfield, Flacco had no available options, and Dunlap was able to use his speed to take down Flacco for the sack (pictured below).
Right tackle Michael Oher has fought back from an ankle injury but still seems to struggle when facing speedy defensive ends. If Shea McClellin is able to play this Sunday after sitting out against the Detroit Lions with a hamstring injury, he has a good chance at applying pressure to Flacco with his speed.
Slow Down Torrey Smith's Big-Play Potential
A second-round pick of the Ravens in 2011, Torrey Smith has been a big-play threat since he stepped on the field. He was viewed as a guy with great speed and big-play potential but needed to work on his route-running to become a consistent contributor in the NFL.
He has slowly become a good route runner and he currently leads the league in most yards per catch with 18.4 amongst those with 30 or more catches. He utilizes his route running abilities to get a defender to hesitate and can use his speed to burn past him.
Week 9 against the Cleveland Browns, he was able to show off his great route running and his speed. Late in the second quarter with the Ravens trailing the Browns 14-3, the Ravens lined up against in their "11" personnel with Smith opposite of Browns cornerback Joe Haden (pictured below).
Smith is given a cushion off the line of scrimmage, and Haden continues to play him off down the field. Smith hesitates on a cut to his right and forces Haden to bite on the outside (pictured below).
Haden is now a step behind Smith, and free safety Tashaun Gipson then bites down instead of working toward Smith. Joe Flacco throws a great ball and hits Smith for a 46-yard completion (picture below).
It will be interesting to see how the Bears plan to defend Smith with the news that came out earlier this week that Charles Tillman will miss the remainder of the regular season, per NFL.com. The team will start Zackary Bowman in place of Tillman opposite of Tim Jennings, but Marc Trestman was clear that the loss of Tillman will hurt, telling The Chicago Tribune, according to Dan Wiederer, "There's no way to replicate what Charles can do."
Jennings has the speed to match up with Smith but likely not the size, while Bowman has the size but not necessarily the speed. As poorly as the Bears safeties have played this season, Sunday they will be key in helping to slow down Smith's big-play potential.
Protect Josh McCown
The Ravens are currently tied for third in the league for most sacks with 32. The majority of those sacks come from their talented outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Suggs leads the Ravens with nine sacks on the season with Dumervil a close second with eight-and-a-half.
The Bears offensive line has done a good job protecting their quarterback this season by giving up just 14 sacks, good enough for third-best in the league.
Josh McCown will be starting for the injured Jay Cutler whom Marc Trestman said was week-to-week and his return “certainly won’t be this week,” per Adam Hoge of CBS Chicago, forcing McCown to start his second game of the season.
Dumervil is coming off a three-sack performance against the Cincinnati Bengals and will be someone the Bears will need to keep in check.
This past Sunday against the Bengals, on second down with seven yards to go, the Ravens used two down linemen and brought their outside linebackers as well as cornerback Lardarius Webb on a blitz. On the play, Dumervil was lined up against former Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth (pictured below).
Dumervil initially uses his strength to push Whitworth back and attempts to beat him outside (pictured below).
Whitworth is able to hold his own for a short period of time before Dumervil uses his speed to gain leverage and make an inside move that allowed him to sack quarterback Andy Dalton (pictured below).
Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod will have the tough task of going against Dumervil on Sunday afternoon, and he could also see some snaps against Suggs if the linebackers decide to move around a bit. Bushrod will have to utilize not only his size and strength, but he will also have to use his athleticism to offset some of Dumervil's skills.