The Bears face the Rams on Sunday in what’s become a pretty critical game this early in the season for the Chicago Bears. After a disappointing loss to the Packers which has Bears faithful questioning the quarterback, the head coach and the team as a whole, the Bears need a strong showing to right the ship and calm the masses.
The Rams look to be better than previously advertised, as Jeff Fisher has the young Rams starting to believe they can be winners right away and don’t need a lengthy rebuilding project to get back to their elite status of the late 90′s. To help us get some insight from the opponent’s side of the fence, we’ve enlisted the help of Nathan Kearns from Ramblin’ Fan for our weekly 5 Questions. Once you’re done reading our Q&A, head over there and check out my answers to his questions.
1. The Rams traded away the #2 pick in this past draft, which turned out to be RGIII. Any regrets from Rams fans seeing how well he’s played in his first couple of games? Do you think Sam Bradford will end up as the better quarterback?
After watching the two face off last Sunday, I think it is clear that Sam Bradford is the right fit for the St. Louis Rams. The Rams got Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead, and Rokevious Watkins this year alone from that trade, not to mention the Redskins 1st rounder in 2013 and 2014, so it may be a bit premature for “regrets.”
I genuinely think that Bradford will end up with the better career, although I am sure Griffin will turn out just fine. The league is already making the drastic shift towards the passing game, and quarterbacks who rely on their legs instead of their arm have had limited success. Linebackers and defensive ends are becoming lighter, quicker, and better in coverage, which will make the staying the pocket and winning with quick, smart throws all the more important.
2. Jeff Fisher gets a lot of respect around Chicago as a former member of the ’85 Bears and he had a pretty good run with the Titans before coming to the Rams. What’s your early impression of him? Do you think he can turn the Rams around?
He has already left his impression on the St. Louis Rams, which you could see even during training camp. There is a new mentality amongst the players; specifically, that losing is no longer “OK.” Fisher doesn’t care about the moral victories, because those don’t count in January or February. He brings a mental toughness and swagger that the Rams have been missing for the last decade. You can see it personified through the play on the field, especially in the Washington game. In years past, if the Rams had given up 6 points on their opening possession or falling to 21-6 at halftime, the game would be over. Fisher keeps the player level-headed, manages the clock, and puts St. Louis in position to win at the end of the game.
3. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of the Jay Cutler saga even down in St Louis. What’s your take on Cutler? What do Chris Long and the Rams defense have in store for Cutler and the Bears offense? Can Cortand Finnegan take Brandon Marshall out of the game like Green Bay’s 2-Man defense did to the Bears last week?
Cutler is an old school, gun slinging type of quarterback that trusts his arm, sometimes too much, to squeeze the ball through tight windows in coverage. Chris Long will get consistent pressure on Cutler, but the real ace will be Robert Quinn going against Webb on the left side of your offensive line. Quinn already has two sacks against two of the more elusive quarterbacks in the NFL (Stafford with quick thrown and RGIII with his legs). The Rams rarely blitz the linebacker, but will love to have Bradley Fletcher and Quintin Mikell blitz from the secondary.
The Rams will probably split time on Brandon Marshall, so you will likely not see Finnegan on Marshall for most of the game. Much like they did against Calvin Johnson in Week 1, St. Louis will likely put Bradley Fletcher, who is a little bigger and taller, on Marshall for most of the game. If the first two games are any indication, Jeff Fisher will play a ton of Cover 2-Man in the nickel package, with Mikell and Dahl back deep in zone, the three corners (Jenkins, Fletcher, and Finnegan) in man on the wide outs and tight end, and Laurinaitis and Dunbar in a middle/flats zone or spying the backfield.
4. Both teams’ starting running backs Steven Jackson and Matt Forte are on the injury report and their status is uncertain for Sunday. If neither plays, which team is hurt more?
That is tough, because Michael Bush and Daryl Richardson have both played well in their limited, full-time roles. In the end, I think that the Bears will suffer more from Forte out than Jackson out. Daryl Richardson is a miniature version of Steven Jackson, hitting the holes hard and running through arm tackles to spring plays for big gains. Richardson is fluid in the passing game, whereas Bush has yet to catch a pass this season from Cutler, nor does he have the speed or elusiveness to do much catching out of the backfield.
When Brandon Marshall is not getting separation, Cutler looks straight for Forte out of the backfield, which is why he is the second leading receiver on the team in receptions, targets, and yards. Bush has the clear advantage at the goal line, but Richardson proved last week that he can smash it through the line too, converting on a pivotal two-point conversion. The Bears also have no one on the team past Bush on the depth chart, while the Rams have Isaiah Pead to fill in if necessary. Overall, Forte will be missed much more than Jackson, especially in the third and long situation and in the passing game.
5. Who are some young, under the radar players for the Rams that Bears fans may not know yet, but will make a strong impression on Sunday?
The whole team is young, so you can pretty much throw a dart at the roster and hit someone under the age of 25. I wouldn’t consider Janoris Jenkins an under the radar player, especially given his high profile resume coming out of college(s), although he will definitely make a strong impression on Sunday. Robert Quinn is our second year defensive end, who had 5 sacks in limited snaps last season, and already has 2 this year. With Chris Long likely to be taking a double team on every play, Quinn will get his hands on Cutler a couple of time during the game.
The only two rookies, aside from Jenkins, that are making a big impact in the games are Daryl Richardson, who I mentioned before, and Greg Zuerlein, the kicker St. Louis drafted in the 6th round. Zuerlein is 6 for 6 in field goals on the season, including 3 from 40+ yards. He can chip shot field goals from 50+, and has even shown off some from 60+ during practice and warm ups. If the Rams are having trouble moving the ball down the field, Fisher is not afraid to let Greg ‘the Leg’ try them from deep.
Bonus Question: What’s your prediction for the game? Please include a final score.
This should be a good battle between two of the better defenses in the league. St. Louis will need to keep Brandon Marshall from making the big plays, and get hits on Cutler to get him forcing the ball down the field like he did against Green Bay. Chicago will need to find an answer for Danny Amendola, and do it before he nabs 10+ receptions in the first half. Amendola specializes in finding the holes in zone coverage, and will out-quick a nickelback or linebacker if you go man-to-man.
Bradford is a rhythm quarterback that likes to get the ball out his hands quickly on outside slants and crossing routes between the tight ends and slot receivers. If the Bears’ front seven can get consistent pressure on Bradford and stuff Jackson and/or Richardson in the run game, then the offense will likely stall, just as it did against the Detroit Lions.
My prediction is that the makeshift offensive line of the Bears will have a tough time keeping Quinn and Long out of the backfield and that will result in some turnovers. However, playing in Chicago against a team that was just dominated by a division rival is never a good position to be in. It should be a low scoring game, but will take Bradford’s level-headedness over the easily-frustrated Cutler… 20-17, Rams