Chicago Bears: 5 Keys to Season Opening Victory
While most experts will say to win this game the Bears must win the turnover battle and control the clock.
That is too simple, here are five key match ups to keep the Falcons grounded en route to a Chicago Bear Victory.
Bears Defensive Tackles vs. Hawley and Reynolds
The Bears defensive tackle rotation might be the most talented position top to bottom on the Bears roster. Playing all five of them throughout the game will allow them to stay fresh and fast as the game goes on.
Atlanta lost free agent guard Harvey Dahl to the St. Louis Rams this offseason, Dahl brought consistency and toughness to that Atlanta offensive line, replacing him will not be easy. Garrett Reynolds is the man being counted on to do just that. Inexperience is the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to Reynolds.
Veteran Center Todd McClure will miss the game due to surgery, replacing him will be 2010 fourth round pick Joe Hawley.
So losing a veteran guard to free agency and the 144 start streak of center McClure will end, the Bears defensive tackles better be ready to create havoc.
Henry Melton and Amobi Okoye should be getting pressure on Matt Ryan, and Anthony Adams, Matt Toeaina and Stephen Paea eating up blocks and stopping the run.
If this group of defensive tackles can be a force on Sunday against this weak link of the Falcons offense, it will make the rest of the defense look so much better against this high flying Falcon offense.
Carimi and Webb vs. Abraham and Edwards
The young offensive tackles have their work cut out for them to start the season. John Abraham and free agent acquisition Ray Edwards are no joke when it comes to a defensive end duo.
Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb need to continue improving as they have done during training camp and the preseason. It is important that they not allow these defensive ends to be in Jay Cutler's face.
Abraham and Edwards are vulnerable against the run, the Bears should look to run behind Carimi early in the game to get the welcome to the NFL jitters out, thus making the rookie more comfortable.
If Carimi and Webb can give Cutler time, and move these defensive ends around in the running game, the Bears offense should be in prime position to put points on the board.
Tillman and Jennings vs. White and Jones
Falcons Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Roddy White alone will give the defense headaches, add 6' 3" 220 pound first round pick Julio Jones to the mix, headaches should be the least of your worries.
Charles Tillman has been a solid cornerback for a long time for the Bears defense, while getting up there in age he will have to rely on his size, instincts and intangibles to keep whichever Atlanta receiver he lines up against in check.
Tim Jennings on the other hand is a hard worker, some might say he is an over achiever, originally signed to compete to be the nickelback Jennings kept on doing everything right and eventually found himself in the starting lineup.
The Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game showed that a wide receiver with size can be rather dominant against the 5'8" Jennings. The Bears must be aware that Atlanta will attack Jennings with White and Jones and that the coverage must be disguised to give him help.
If Jennings and Tillman can keep White and Jones contained it will keep the Bears in the game.
Urlacher and Briggs vs. Turner
Atlanta running back and Chicago native, Michael Turner has not had great success against the Bears. This Sunday will be the first time he plays a game at Soldier Field, and the Bears are looking to no be gracious hosts for Turner's homecoming.
Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs will need to bring their best to stop the Atlanta rushing attack. Turner has averaged over four yards a carry since joining the Falcons in 2008. Scoring 39 touchdowns in 43 games with Atlanta.
If the Bears can stop the rushing attack early, it can force the Falcons to abandon the run and become one dimensional on offense which will lead to the Bears pass rush to get after the quarterback.
Jay Cutler vs. Jay Cutler
We have heard it since he has been in the NFL. He has all the talent in the world but it doesn't translate on the field. It is finally time, Jay Cutler needs to redefine himself and leave no doubt that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
With Olin Kreutz not being resigned this offseason, it allowed Cutler to become the leader of the offense. Everyone is looking to him to take the offense to the next level and Cutler will do just that. He doesn't need to be a media darling or have a great public persona. His job is simple, score points and win football games.
The lockout this offseason might be a blessing in disguise, It seems as if Cutler grew up a little bit as a leader and quarterback, now it is time to translate that onto the field this Sunday.
If Jay Cutler can stay calm, and take what the defense gives him, the Bears should be 1-0 to start the season.