The Bears and Panthers return to the lakefront to renew a frequent matchup. This is the fourth time the Bears and Panthers have faced off in the last five years. The Bears edged Cam Newton and the Panthers 34-29 last season, as the Panthers put up 543 yards of offense against the Bears. What are the keys for the Bears to win their 5th straight game? Check out my Keys to Victory.
Back to the Basics
The Panthers like to run the read option, which many Bears defenders haven’t really seen since Pop Warner or possibly college. It’s about gap integrity and lane discipline. The Bears cannot get sucked into sloppy, lazy defense where they can get gashed for big gains. Defenders must trust their teammates and not get over-aggressive because that’s when lanes are created.
Sound tackling will also be a key for the defense. Cam Newton is a hulk of a man, so don’t go for the kill shot up high. Solid form tackling is the key to bring the big man down.
Give Jay a Break
Jay Cutler is proving to the league what Bears fans have already known – he’s a tough SOB. After taking a vicious shot from Ndamukong Suh on Monday night, Cutler came back in to continue to run the Bears offense. It was clear to this observer that Cutler wasn’t himself in the second half. He couldn’t get the same zip on the ball and appeared limited. While he’s already stated that he’s playing on Sunday, the Bears would be well served to give him a break and RUN THE BALL.
The Bears have a couple of top-flight running backs in Matt Forte and Michael Bush. They need to give these guys the rock and let them do their thing. Forte has shined against the Panthers, in fact recording his career high of just over 200 rushing yards against them last season. The Panthers had to put linebacker Jon Beason on IR this week, so their already suspect run defense will be further weakened.
With his injured ribs, Cutler might not be able to get the ball into the tight windows he usually does. Being the ultimate gunslinger, that could lead to some costly turnovers on Sunday. Run early and often at them and let Jay rest up for his homecoming to Nashville next week.
Don’t Sleep at the Wheel
This one is cliche, but it’s appropriate here – don’t overlook the Panthers. While they’ve lost four straight games and seem to be in disarray, they are still a dangerous team. Steve Smith has made a career of his big games against the Beloved, so he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Since the Panthers fired GM Marty Hurney this week, the players will look to respond in a big way to take some pressure off themselves and second year head coach Ron Rivera. Speaking of Chico, he’s a former Bear and doesn’t want to come to Chicago to get embarrassed, so he’ll have his team ready to roll.
Bears head coach Lovie Smith has already tried to find the proper motivation for his team, noting in an interview earlier this week that it’s not often teams put up over 500 yards against this defense like the Panthers did last season. Lovie will have that defense fired up, so if the offense can avoid turnovers and play a smart football game, the Bears should win running away.
What do you think? What are your keys to the Bears victory on Sunday? Post your thoughts in the Comments and as always…