When the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys battle at Soldier Field Monday night, the biggest star of the game likely won’t be any player on the field, but the bone-chilling cold that’s in the forecast for the city.
With temperatures in the mid-to-upper teens expected for the game, the contest could very well end up becoming a defensive struggle as players try to cope with the frigid conditions. It will be hard for both Josh McCown and Tony Romo to get a feel for the ball even if they end up wearing gloves in the game, and even if they can get their touch dialed in, the windy conditions that are expected to be present will make the passing games even more difficult to execute.
To compensate for that, the teams' defenses are going to have the option of stacking the middle of the field in order to stop the potent run games on both sides, with both DeMarco Murray and Matt Forte coming off of excellent Week 14 performances. Both sides have had their issues in stopping the run lately, but with Sean Lee returning for the Cowboys and Jeremiah Ratliff taking on a bigger role up the middle for the Bears, both sides will at least have an improved chance of stopping the run.
With that in mind, the question of the day turns back to the quarterback position, and becomes a debate on how McCown should strategize in order to cope with the conditions facing him. He has shown an ability this season to thrive when the Bears are able to dial up quick slants by Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and that is something that he’ll have to do on Monday night.
Knowing that, the Cowboys could have their cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick (who will be in the game in place of regular starter Morris Claiborne) play a much tighter man-to-man defense against those two Bears receivers, but that is a matchup that Marc Trestman and company will take. Both Marshall and Jeffery are strong enough to get an initial separation from those two corners even with the tighter coverage, and both have the speed to make plays with their feet if they can get space after the catch.
Even if the Dallas coverage plan works on those two, McCown still has other options that he can consider. The screen pass to Matt Forte, with the running back shedding a block and coming open in the flat, has been a play that the Bears have worked to perfection this season, and we could see that at least a few times in the game Monday. With Forte’s speed and the blocking that the Bears have been getting on that style of play from Jordan Mills and Kyle Long, it could be a useful weapon against an aggressive Cowboys defense.
Both of those types of plays may be staples for the Bears’ offense this season, but they will be especially critical in a game like this. It’s the simple stuff that is most important when the conditions deteriorate for an offense, and fortunately for the Bears, they’ve laid the groundwork for that kind of a gameplan with their strategy this season, and it could prove to be a huge benefit in this one.