7 Keys to Victory in Chicago Bears' Week 4 Matchup
The Chicago Bears don't have time to dwell on a surprise Week 3 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers, not with a quick turnaround before a showdown with the Green Bay Packers on Thursday Night Football.
Against the Steelers, Chicago came out with a borderline odd offensive approach, mostly ignoring wideouts while Mike Glennon coasted thanks to huge performances from Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.
Defensively, the underrated Bears' front flustered Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell enough to escape with the overtime win.
As Bears fans know, though, the Packers are a different animal. Aaron Rodgers and his host of weapons enter the game coming off a win against another stout defensive unit belonging to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Given the nature of the short turnaround, Chicago doesn't have a ton of time to get healthy or mix up the game plan. Here's a look at seven keys to victory for the Bears in the prime-time divisional showdown.
Adrian Amos Steps Up
The Bears couldn't afford any injury news on a short week, but the injury bug didn't care.
Monday, the Bears found out starting safety and notable free-agent add Quintin Demps suffered a broken arm in Week 3, according to the team's official Twitter account.
With Demps down, the Bears will turn back primarily to Adrian Amos against Rodgers, which is as dire a situation as it sounds. The safety didn't inspire alongside others last year, prompting the signing of Demps and the drafting of Eddie Jackson.
Alas, Amos has a trial by fire of sorts for redemption. If he can remain steady where Demps seemed to struggle at times, he’s looking at a turnaround and the Bears have a better chance.
Ride the Thunder and Lightning
It's nickname time for Howard and Cohen.
The pair demolished the Steelers, Howard on a bad shoulder and Cohen putting on another strong performance. Now the two like being dubbed a rather classical sort of nickname.
"I think of us as 'Thunder and Lightning' because he's in there punishing linebackers and punishing defensive backs and then I can come in and break a big play—he feeds off of me and I feed off of him,” Cohen said, per ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson.
Regardless of what they want to be called, Howard and Cohen need to again be the focal point of the game plan against the Packers. It sounds risky on a short week given Howard's shoulder and Cohen's 5'6" stature, but the rash of injuries suffered by wideouts necessitate it.
The better the two can play on a short week, the more likely the offense can keep Rodgers off the field.
Unleash Leonard Floyd, Others
The Bears have to hit Rodgers early and often, both to accelerate the clock in his head and ruin the timing of his weapons.
Barring a dramatic turnaround in health, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and others shouldn't have a hard time slicing and bulldozing through an injured Packers offensive line.
In Week 3 against the Bengals, Rodgers suffered six sacks and it would have been more were it not for flags. Cincinnati rookie Carl Lawson terrorized the backup Green Bay tackle all day, so prioritizing a rush from the left side of the line could help force Rodgers into mistakes.
As Cincinnati found out, hitting home against Rodgers without an effective offense only works for so long. But it's a start.
Get Cohen Open in Better Spots
Given the lack of production from wideout after a series of injuries dating back to the preseason, the Bears need to get creative.
A guy nicknamed The Human Joystick can help.
The Bears seem intent on giving most of the looks to tight ends and running backs, so on a short week, getting Cohen in as many open spaces as possible could decide the outcome given his game-breaking ability.
Against the Steelers, Cohen only saw four targets, catching all of them for 24 yards. Not good enough.
A player such as Cohen can line up at wideout, go in motion, get set up on screens and other short usage if the Bears don't want to push the ball down the field.
Letting arguably the team's best weapon go to work in space is one of the only ways to keep pace with Rodgers.
Get Another Monster Game from Prince Amukamara
While Marcus Cooper made one of the biggest gaffes in recent Bears history thanks to his early celebration on a blocked field-goal return, Prince Amukamara quietly had a huge performance.
The Bears new No. 1 corner put on a show, running with Antonio Brown and having a solid day where most defensive backs can’t.
Pro Football Focus graded him at 87.6 and wrote: "He was targeted just three times in the game and allowed one catch for seven yards. While that catch was a touchdown to Antonio Brown, Amukamara had great coverage on the play and was just beaten by a great catch by Brown."
Coming off a two-touchdown game, Jordy Nelson will be the biggest threat to Chicago on Thursday. If Amukamara can lock down what his assignment might be on every play, it lets the Bears throw resources elsewhere.
Go Back to Wheaton
Markus Wheaton was a dud in Week 3.
He wasn't going to fix all of Chicago's problems through the air on his own, but his speed and ability to line up at multiple spots could have helped space the offense and give Glennon options at wideout.
Instead, Wheaton had a bad drop and otherwise finished with nothing at all. Yet, the Bears need to go back to him often.
Chicago doesn't have much of a choice and Wheaton has shown in the past he can have big games, so the Bears have to hope the dud against Pittsburgh was simply him shaking off the rust.
Of course, any breakout will hinge on the next point.
Expand the Playbook
The Bears won't get away with spamming it to running backs and tight ends against Rodgers.
Regardless of whether the team feels it needs to mask Glennon's weaknesses, opponents can and will shut down an approach if it doesn't evolve.
And it shouldn't have a hard time doing so. Wideout isn't completely devoid of talent, not with Kendall Wright on the roster, a guy coordinator Dowell Loggains is more than familiar with. And tight end Zach Miller is a great pass-catching option, as is rookie Adam Shaheen.
Those three names combined for four targets against the Steelers.
The Bears didn't seem so reserved at times with guys such as Brian Hoyer last year. Holding Glennon back into a game-managing role is asking to go down without even putting up a fight, especially if the running game can't get going against loaded fronts.