Friday, November 20, 2009

Strategy and Matchups - CHI


Let's start on defense. There are 2 simple keys to beating Chicago. First, you need to limit the running game. Matt Forte is the key to their offense. Don't let him get going. That shifts the pressure to Jay Cutler and the passing game. The second key is to make Cutler pay when he makes mistakes. Jay takes chances. You must catch the ball when the opportunity arises. When he gets picked off, they tend to lose.

I have not been impressed with the Bears run blocking this year. The interior trio all have good run blocking skills. I'm not sure what the problem is. I know they've had to deal with some injuries. Maybe that is a big part of the struggles. Pace at LT doesn't seem to get much push at all. I can't say the RT (Williams) has caught my eye one way or the other.

I think our D-line should be able to handle these guys. Of course I thought that last week and the Chargers did a good job of blocking us for most of the game. Clearly the LB play was a big part of our problem last week. That leads us to the big question of the moment...who's playing where?

Chris Gocong will be the SAM this week. That is a 100% guaranteed lock. I think. The guy getting the most snaps at MLB has been...Joe Mays??? Yep. He played his best game against the Chargers. Granted, that was only on STs. Does that merit a look at MLB? On the surface, no. What we don't know about is how well Joe has practiced in recent weeks. If he's been stepping it up Wed-Fri, then maybe he does deserve a chance to get back on the field. The fact that the Eagles kept him around through all the roster shuffling we've done tells you they think he still has a good future, at least as a role player.

Spoon slides out to WLB. He's spent half his career out there so that isn't a major problem for him. He didn't have a great game vs SD, but was hardly a problem for us. I know some will wonder why Spoon doesn't stay in the middle and then start Tracy White at WLB. My guess is that they don't think Tracy is physical enough for the way we ideally like to use our WLB. Again, that's strictly a guess. The most interesting aspect of all this is that last week's leading tackler, Moise Fokou, will be sitting on the bench. I'm surprised they didn't look at him inside or consider sliding him to WLB and leaving Spoon in the middle.

Will we get good enough LB play to handle the Bears run game? I expect we'll do better than last week because Chris will be back where he should. Spoon is fine at WLB. That's gives us stability at 2 of 3 spots. I have no idea what to think of MLB. That is a complete mystery.

One thing I should mention is that I'm not hearing that any particular lineup has been finalized at this point. We may not know what really will happen until Sunday night.

The Bears passing attack is built around 2 key receivers, Devin Hester and TE Greg Olsen. We must tackle well when dealing with Hester. He catches plenty of short throws. The key is to eliminate RAC yards as much as possible. Olsen is a good TE. That, of course, is a concern for us. This year we've had some struggles witch covering TEs. I can live with Olsen catching his share of passes. We need to make him work for those catches. Most importantly, we need to keep him out of the end zone.

Sheldon is practicing and expects to play. We'll need his tackling. Asante has to tackle or at least slow the Bears receivers down. Luckily, Hester and Knox are fast guys, but not big buys. Asante handles speed better than size. We need him to play the ball well on those passes that Cutler throws his way. This is the kind of game where an INT could be huge.

The Bears throw a lot of short passes. We got burned by WR screens in the Dallas game. The Bears burned us with screens last year. Do we back off our blitzing because of this? McDermott won't get passive, but he may have to change up the way he attacks. We do need our CBs to play the WR screens better and we need the DTs to help out on screens to Forte. Don't let him get a clean release. Hold him. Grab him. Shadow him.

I'll be disappointed if Darren Howard doesn't beat Josh Beekman a time or two when we're in our Nickel package. I hope McDermott learned his lesson about the DEs and we stick with Trent on the right side and the group on the left side.

As for the offense...I really hope we use the gameplan from the Giants game. We lined up in the Ace Formation and ran Weaver between the tackles. We ran McCoy out of the I and some other formations. We mixed vertical throws with a focus on moving the chains.

The key up front will be having Jason at LT and Todd at LG. That gives us a pair of outstanding players on the same side. That has to help in the run game. I'm not sure what will happen at RG. Nick Cole should start at RG ahead of Stacy Andrews, but I haven't seen that announcement yet. Cole is the better player right now. Don't get too down on Stacy. He's a better player than he's showing right now.

The Bears are playing more man coverage than I recall from past games. The way to attack that is with crossing routes and some vertical routes. Make the CBs run and chase the receivers all over the field. The matchup we want speed wise is Tillman on DeSean, aka Peanut on Peanut. DeSean has the speed to run all over Tillman. There is a size advantage for Tillman and I'm sure he'd try to be real physical.

Donovan was hot in the 2nd half last week. I am really interested to see if that carries over. One interesting idea would be to come out with 4 WRs and go no-huddle from the start. See if Donovan is still in a good rhythm. Obviously I want us to run the ball more than last week. I would not go no-huddle all game or anything like that. Reggie Brown played well last week. He played well vs the Bears last year. One reason to go no-huddle with 4 WRs is to get him on the field.

The Bears annually have very good STs units. Our coverage on Sproles was outstanding last week. We'll need to keep that up. I'm excited to see Macho Harris as the KOR. He looked really good on his 2 returns last week. DeSean muffed a punt vs CHI last year. I don't want a repeat performance. Akers missed a pair of long FGs last year that really hurt us in the loss. Can't have a repeat of that.


We stink on NBC. We're 0-7 on Sunday night games since the switch to them. We did win a Saturday game on Christmas in '06 on NBC. Why the losses? We've played a lot of good teams.

DAL 20-16
NYG 36-31
CHI 24-20
NE 31-28
DAL 38-17
NYG 16-3
IND 45-21

This streak needs to end. We've also lost consecutive heartbreakers to the Bears. Can't deal with that again. One we got the lead and let them go on a long drive. Last year we stalled at the goal line when Martha Schobel decided not to block.

Chicago is on a cold streak. We've lost consecutive games, but we lost to red hot Dallas and red hot SD. That doesn't change the fact we lost, but at least it was to good teams that were playing well at the time. We need to beat the Bears. This isn't the kind of game you want to lose.

I know people are down on the Bears, but if they win this game we'll both have the same record (5-5). Chicago is struggling, but they are not some awful team. They're just playing sloppy football right now and making mistakes. We've done that the last couple of weeks and it has cost us. We must eliminate the penalties. Chicago will look to do the same. We have more talent and we're the better team, but that doesn't mean a darn thing if we don't play like it on Sunday night.


Cliff said...

I hope we can jump out to an early lead and force Cutler to do his best Brett Favre impersonation (2005 Brett, not 2009 Brett).

Cliff said...

Does anyone remember J.J. being this inconsistent from week to week? I get the feeling that McDermmot is throwing together a hodgepodge of players (especially at LB) each week.

In the past, I felt like we'd go with a line-up for a couple of games to get a feel of the strengths and weaknesses of that particular combination. Now, McD is shuffling our LB's like they're playing cards. I'm really concerned.

Boyboy said...

Well..injuries at the LB position never hit JJ this hard. Bradley and Gaither are done for the year. That's your potential Pro Bowl MLB and your top backup at two positions. You've lost your starting WLB (Jordan) for a few weeks and Gocong even missed a game. When you're forced to play White and/or Mays and/or Trotter, you're going to have to shuffle LBs like playing cards. McD is just trying to find a playable hand right now.

Tommy Lawlor said...

Boyboy is right about the LB issues.

Sean is having to work through a lot of injuries. He screwed up last week, but that is going to happen when you're mixing and matching players based on who is available.

Cliff said...

Yeah, I guess I agree. It's difficult to remember now that linebacker was a position of optimism during the summer. Ugh.

Boyboy said...

This is an interesting article from :