San Diego Chargers vs. Chicago Bears: 5 Things to Watch
The Chargers, on the other hand, are looking to stop a four-game skid, and trying to avoid losing five in a row.
The Bears must remain consistent with what they have been doing during this winning streak—playing great defense and not turning the ball over.
Here are five things to watch this week as the Bears host the Chargers.
Charles Tillman vs. Vincent Jackson
Two weeks ago, Charles Tillman was faced with the difficult task of defending speedy wide receiver Desean Jackson of the Eagles, and was able to limit Jackson to just two catches for 16 yards.
This past week, Tillman was matched up against one of the best receivers in the league, Calvin Johnson. Tillman was able to slow down Johnson, allowing him just 81 yards on seven catches (Johnson had been averaging 120 yards receiving in his past four games).
Tillman once again will be challenged this week, going up against the Chargers' main wide receiving threat, Vincent Jackson.
So far this season, Jackson has had mixed results, but is still regarded as one of the best physical receivers in the league, having posted three touchdown catches against the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago.
In order for Tillman to shut down Jackson, he is going to have to use the same tactics that were successful against Johnson. If Tillman is allowed to play man coverage and be physical with a receiver, he has been able to get good results.
Look for the Bears to play more bump and run man coverage, which allows Tillman to be physical and helps him shut down opposing receivers.
Offensive Line Stability
Much of this season and last season has focused on the Bears' ability (or inability) to keep quarterback Jay Cutler upright. After some fine tuning this offseason, and after the injury to rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi, the Bears felt they finally had continuity on their offensive line.
Left tackle J'Marcus Webb and left guard Chris Williams were providing size and athleticism to the left side of the line, center Roberto Garza was adhering to his new responsibility as leader of the offensive line, and new right guard Chris Spencer and right tackle Lance Louis were providing a toughness and aggression that offensive line coach Mike Tice had been desiring.
But all of that continuity came to a halt when Williams injured his wrist against the Lions and was placed on injured reserve this week.
Enter, Williams No. 2—Edwin Williams.
Edwin, who went undrafted out of college and spent time on the Washington Redskins practice squad, will make the start this Sunday against the Chargers. Edwin, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 313 pounds, lacks the speed and athleticism that Chris Williams possesses, but can be relied upon as a bruising guard.
Look for the Bears to try pounding the ball against the Chargers because nothing helps solidify an offensive line more than run blocking. At some point, Edwin will be tested against the Chargers' tough interior linemen, but look for Chicago's Garza to be used as a double team blocker in situations that can help their new guard.
The Nickel Package
Like many great passing teams, the Chargers like to use three to four wide receiver sets, which, in turn, forces defenses to pull a linebacker and insert another cornerback to cover one of the extra receivers.
Throughout this season and last, D.J. Moore has been the Bears' extra cornerback, otherwise known as the nickelback. Moore has been known for his ability to pick off passes (seven career interceptions) and his ability to get pressure on the quarterback when used in a blitz package.
But, this past Wednesday, Moore injured his ankle in practice and is not expected to play Sunday.
Enter, Corey Graham.
Graham is no stranger to the Bears defense, having started 10 games since 2007, but has had most of his success as a special teams player. Graham will be expected to play the nickelback position Sunday, despite being more experienced playing the number one, or number two cornerback position.
Graham is known as a strong tackler who plays well in the run game, but lacks some of the speed and agility that most nickelbacks possess.
Look for the Chargers to try to exploit Graham's lack of speed, and if that happens, the Bears may be forced to try Zachary Bowman in the nickelback spot.
Matt Forte vs. Chargers Defense
Last week, the Detroit Lions were finally able to slow down Matt Forte, who rushed for only 64 yards on 18 carries, while he had been averaging nearly 138 yards rushing in his previous five games.
It is no secret that Matt Forte is what keeps this Bears offense going.
In order for teams to shut down the Bears offensively, they have been zeroing in on Forte. Last week, the Lions defenders were shooting the gaps, getting past the Bears linemen, and disrupting the play in the backfield.
Many of the Bears lead and stretch plays require time to get started, and the Lions defense did a good job of trying to eliminate those plays.
San Diego will run their standard 3-4 defense, which does not allow much gap shooting from their defensive linemen, but they will probably use a linebacker to try to disrupt the Bears' running game.
In order for the Bears to be successful, the offensive line may have to maintain a block for a second or two longer in order for a play to open up.
It is no secret that, this season, Earl Bennett has been Jay Cutler's favorite target.
Sure, Bennett only has 14 catches this season, but it's due to injury; he returned to the field two weeks ago after being out since week two.
In the two games since Bennett's return, he has 11 catches for 176 yards and one touchdown. Bennett has become Cutler's go-to receiver on third downs, and it's undeniable that the two have a connection.
Although Bennett does not plan on wearing the now infamous orange cleats, look for the magic to continue as Cutler tries to get Bennett more and more involved in the passing game.