The Chicago Bears don’t have many opportunities to make a statement before a national audience, but Monday will provide them with that opportunity as they take on the San Diego Chargers.
The Bears, whose two wins this season have both come against AFC West opponents, are looking to end a brief losing streak after dropping consecutive NFC North contests in their last two games. In those games, the team has been very competitive, but ultimately were undone by defensive miscues and the offense failing to capitalize on select opportunities.
On Monday night, they will look to change all of that, and we have three keys to victory for the Bears as they look to get back on the right track.
Dictate Time of Possession
This key would have been a heck of a lot easier with Matt Forte in the backfield, but unfortunately that wasn’t to be as the running back will miss the game with a knee injury. That means that Jeremy Langford will get the start for Chicago, and while the rookie does have a bit of NFL experience, this will be the first time that he’ll be expected to fully take the reins.
Of course, running the football is always something that teams strive to do, but the Bears have plenty of incentive to attempt it in this game. The Chargers have one of the league’s worst run defenses, currently ranking 27th in the NFL in that category, and while they have an explosive offense, they find it difficult to get Philip Rivers and company back on the field to take advantage of it.
That’s the exact trend that the Bears will need to hope continues on Monday. If they can get Langford running early and effectively, it will not only open up space for guys like Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, but it will also keep the clock moving and give the defense a better chance of keeping Rivers in check.
Get Pressure on Philip Rivers
Speaking of that defense, the Bears’ front seven has got to do a better job of getting to the quarterback than they have in recent weeks. Unless Vic Fangio dials up blitz packages, the team has barely been able to put any pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and although Pernell McPhee is having an excellent season, he alone has not been able to get things going for this anemic pass rush.
The responsibility to get things moving in the right direction will fall partly on McPhee, but the defensive linemen for the Bears will also have to get active. Eddie Goldman will be looked at as a run stopper in the game with Chargers center Chris Watt out of the lineup, and Jarvis Jenkins could have an easier assignment if left guard Orlando Franklin can’t go.
Sure, occasional blitzes from Sam Acho and Adrian Amos would be welcomed by the Bears’ defense, but it will fall largely upon that front group to win the battle in the trenches and help give the team’s defense an opportunity to do some serious damage against one of the toughest offenses they’ll face this season.
Selective Agression a Good Thing
One of the biggest praises that’s been sung about Jay Cutler has been about how efficient he is this season. Cutler is showing more poise in the pocket, throwing with more accuracy, and making better decisions than he has in his tenure in Chicago, and Adam Gase deserves a lot of credit for that progession.
Unfortunately, some of that progression has come as a result of calling a simpler offensive scheme, and that has backfired on the Bears in some key situations. If the team is going to be successful against San Diego, Cutler has to have the reins loosened just a little bit, and the red zone playcalling for the team has to be more aggressive at times than they have been.
Keeping Cutler in check and out of bad habits is something that Gase has rightfully been praised for, but if there is an appropriate time to step on accelerator a bit, it’s now.