3 keys for Bears to upset Raiders and final score prediction originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
After one quarter of the season, the Bears are 2-2. They’ve had two impressive wins and two ugly losses, and have already changed quarterbacks and play callers. So what do we make of this? Are the Bears the team with a dominant pass rush and a rookie quarterback who can make exciting plays? Or are they the team that makes mistakes in the secondary and has trouble blocking up front? Truthfully, it might be too early to tell. But we did learn in Week 4 that this team has some clear strengths, and if they lean on those strengths and execute, they have a path to victory. Looking ahead to this Sunday’s game against the Raiders, the Bears find themselves road underdogs. If they’re able to execute these three keys, however, they can pull off the upset in Vegas.
BRING THE HEAT AGAINST DEREK CARR
Carr has been sacked 12 times this year, tied for fifth-most in the league. On the other side of the coin, the Bears defense leads the NFL with 15 sacks. There’s a clear matchup disparity that can be exploited. Rushing the quarterback is always important, but given Joey Bosa’s comments following the Chargers victory over the Raiders last week, it could be even more important.
"We knew once we hit him a few times, he really gets shook," Bosa said via ESPN. "And you saw on [a fourth-quarter] sack he was pretty much curling into a ball before we even got back there.”
Now those comments could have Carr fired up to prove the haters wrong, and the Bears themselves didn’t attribute any added importance or significance upon hearing that take from Bosa, but you’d have to think the defense would want to bring serious heat early in the game after seeing that quote.
For what it’s worth, the Raiders know it’s an issue and have already made some lineup changes to try to shore up their pass protection. Per multiple reports, the Raiders moved first-round draft pick Alex Leatherwood from right tackle to right guard during Thursday’s practice, and put Brandon Parker in at RT. Parker has only played 35 offensive snaps this season, all at right tackle in the second half of Las Vegas’ Week 2 game. Will Sean Desai try to exploit the right side of their line with Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack lining up next to each other again?
One last note on why the pass rush is especially important this week: the Raiders have one of the more explosive offenses in the league. They have several receivers who can take the top off a defense, and Carr leads the league with 23 completions of 20+ yards. But if Carr doesn’t have time to throw the ball, those deeper routes can’t develop, and the Bears can help limit their big play potential.
STAY COMMITTED TO THE RUN GAME EVEN WITH DAVID MONTGOMERY OUT
Replacing everything Montgomery brings to the Bears offense is impossible, but the worst thing the Bears could do is to abandon the run if they’re stuffed early in the game. Creating a dynamic, efficient offense is a beautiful whirlwind一 and most teams can’t score seemingly at will, like the Chiefs.
“When you’re able to run the ball when they know you’re running the ball that’s always a good thing,” said Ifedi. “It makes the defense have to play more honest. When a D-lineman knows that he only has to rush the quarterback, that’s like Candyland for them. They love that. But when they have to play the run, when they have to have real eye control and stuff like that, that makes their job a little tougher. It makes them have to play honest. They can’t just run upfield every time or we’ll just run it right there every time. So it’s cool. It’s cool to make them play honest.”
When pass rushers aren’t going full throttle towards the quarterback right at the jump, it gives the offensive line a better chance to get set when they do have to pass protect. With better protection comes the time to hit deep passes. With deep passes comes even more “honesty” from the secondary. That, in turn, opens up the middle of the field for intermediate completions. Hitting on those intermediate completions prevents the defense from stacking the box, which goes back and helps the run game. Thus, the beautiful whirlwind.
BEGIN TO UNLEASH JUSTIN FIELDS
It’s only Fields’ third start, so the Bears probably shouldn’t open up the offense 100% with him running the show just yet. But continuing to expand the playbook with him is essential, not only for his development, but for winning games. One concept we haven’t seen much of is designed runs.
“There will always be some QB run in Justin's game to some degree,” Bill Lazor said. “Some weeks it might be two plays, some weeks it might be eight. Whatever it is, designed QB runs will be part of the game and then there will always be some unscripted (runs).”
Lazor also intimated that there could be more rollouts coming, since we’ve largely seen the Bears use Fields as a pocket passer, relying on his instincts to get out of the pocket when needed.
The Raiders will be preparing for Fields rushing the ball, or getting out of the pocket, in some capacity. But since the Bears haven’t employed that often, whatever schemes they do come up with could come with an element of surprise. Further, using Fields’ legs is another way to help the offensive line in pass protection. Last week, the Bears used tight ends as extra blockers and it worked well in both the run game and the pass game. But now that’s on tape, and opponents will be working on ways to attack that, so the Bears need to stay a step ahead. Giving Fields a slightly longer leash will help in that regard.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION
All in all, I believe the Bears match up well against the Raiders. Their pass rush is humming and that should help limit the Raiders’ big play ability. If the Bears can hit on a few explosives of their own, they can get out of Vegas with a win.
Bears 24, Raiders 20