After an offseason that has been filled with upheaval and change for the Chicago Bears, the team will finally take the field on Sunday afternoon in their regular season opener against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.
Before the teams take the field and battle for NFC North bragging rights, we present our three keys to victory for the Bears as they look to score their first victory under new head coach John Fox.
Responsibility on Run Defense
The Packers’ offense is largely predicated around their passing attack, but with Jordy Nelson out of the lineup and Randall Cobb dealing with the effects of a shoulder injury, Green Bay could potentially run the ball more often than usual in the game.
If they do that and Eddie Lacy becomes a focal point for the offense, then the Bears’ new 3-4 defense is going to face a stern test. The team is already suffering some injuries throughout the lineup, and losing Jeremiah Ratliff to suspension has hurt them on their defensive line. Eddie Goldman is going to have to stand tall in this game, and linebackers like Shea McClellin and Pernell McPhee will also be key as the Bears look to plug holes and keep Lacy from finding running room in the contest.
Balanced Attack Opens Up the Field
Under former head coach Marc Trestman, the Bears became a pass-first, ask questions later team, and even though the team surely won’t abandon the passing game under new coordinator Adam Gase, they will be looking to approach their gameplan with more balance in order to relieve some of the pressure on Jay Cutler.
In order to do that, the Bears have to establish the run early, which is something they alluded to a lot last season but never really accomplished. That means that Matt Forte will have to get some running room in the early going, and that responsibility will fall upon an offensive line that is sporting a different look than in years past. Look for Kyle Long to be active in the run-blocking game Sunday, and look for Charles Leno and Vladimir Ducasse to help stabilize the right side of the line as well.
Can Secondary Withstand Rodgers Barrage?
Of course, the big question going into any game against the Packers is whether or not the Bears can stop Aaron Rodgers. In the past, they have been unable to do so with much success, and that pattern could continue with the struggles the Bears’ secondary had during the preseason.
Kyle Fuller still hasn’t found the form that he displayed early in the 2014 season, and there are still question marks at other key positions as well, with guys like Adrian Amos and Sherrick McManis both needing to prove that they can play at the NFL level.
With that many secondary questions, the Bears will have to really make some strides forward in order to have success against Rodgers and company. The quarterback is excellent at diagnosing defensive schemes and exploiting them at will, and even with his primary receiver out of the mix, he is still a dangerous threat and has to be stopped in order for the Bears to win.