As the NFL prepares to move forward into Week 14 of the season, the Chicago Bears are faced with the fact that they will once again be suiting up for Thursday football, this time against the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field.
The game will not only feature two teams coming off of embarrassing Thanksgiving day losses (the Bears were blown out by the Detroit Lions, while the Cowboys were steamrolled by the Philadelphia Eagles), but it will also be a rematch of a Thursday night game from last season. That contest, also played at Soldier Field, saw Josh McCown throw for 348 yards and four touchdowns as the Bears knocked off Dallas by a score of 45-28.
This time around, things are similar for the two teams in a myriad of ways. The Bears are a team that struggles against the run, but they also have been having a tough time in stopping the pass as well. Matthew Stafford picked Chicago apart like a Thanksgiving turkey on Thursday, and that has to give some hope to Tony Romo, who was chased around and beaten to a pulp by an aggressive Philadelphia defense.
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DeMarco Murray could also be in for another big game against the Bears, as he rushed for 146 yards on just 16 carries against Chicago last season. That number could have, and probably should have, been higher, as the game time temperature was below 10 degrees and the wind made passing difficult. The Bears ended up lucking out because of their early lead in the game, which forced the Cowboys to deviate from their plan early on.
Unfortunately, the Bears aren’t going to be able to rely on that kind of early advantage again. This team has proven time and again this season that they can’t score in bunches, and that means they’ll have to try to figure out a way to stop the Cowboys’ offense, rather than waiting for Romo to simply make mistakes. Murray is one of the most potent offensive players on the planet right now, and he’ll certainly be ready to torch the Bears if Jared Allen and Willie Young can’t keep contain around the edges of the defensive line.
At the same time, the Bears will also have to keep an eye on Dallas’ array of passing game weapons as well. Dez Bryant is one of the top wide receivers in the league, and when he is lined up in one-on-one coverage he can be an absolute nightmare for even the best cornerbacks. Cole Beasley provides a speedy option out of the slot as well, and if that’s not enough, Jason Witten provides the type of muscular tight end passing threat over the middle that the Bears have struggled with at times this season.
Even with all of those things working against them, the Bears should have reason for optimism. Dallas looked downright putrid on both sides of the ball against the Eagles, eventually wearing down in the face of Chip Kelly’s constant offensive assault and making a lot of careless mistakes of their own when Romo had the ball in his hands.
If the Bears can get to the Cowboys’ quarterback early, and if they can use Matt Forte and their other offensive weapons to full effect, then Thursday’s game is winnable. We’ll have plenty more this week on how the Bears can do that, but if there’s one thing to remember as preparations continue, it’s that this game is one Chicago can win.