Aug 27, 2011; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) surges through the line against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE
The Bears return to Tennessee to face the Titans for the first time since 2004. I was reading the game recap of the Bears’ thrilling 19-17 OT win. How do you win an overtime game by two points? That’s right class, a safety!
"Chicago defensive ends Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye laughed, arguing at their lockers, trying to figure out who deserved credit for the final play.The way this Chicago defense is playing, there’s more than enough to go around.Brown sacked Billy Volek in the end zone and knocked the ball loose, and Tennessee tackle Fred Miller recovered but was tackled by Ogunleye for a safety to give the Bears a 19-17 overtime win over the Titans on Sunday."
Talk about some blasts from the past? You won’t even be able to guess the Bears’ starting quarterback in that game. Craig Krenzel. My how things have changed in 8 years.
So what are the keys to a Chicago Bears victory this time around? Let’s see.
Start Not Slow
I won’t even bother saying “Start Fast;” I’d settle for not giving up a sack on the opening play. The Bears are a league-worst on first down. Some of that falls on play calling and some falls on execution. It’s time to clean up these issues and start clicking on first down.
Early in the game, instead of trying to go got the home run, set Jay up with some short to intermediate routes to help the offense get off to a better start. Mix in some first down Forte runs to open up play action down the line. Stop being so predictable and set up some manageable third downs.
Big Men on Campus
Jan 16, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) celebrates with tight end Greg Olsen (82) and wide receiver Earl Bennett (80) after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter of the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE
The Bears feature a handful of Vanderbilt guys in Jay Cutler, Earl Bennett and DJ Moore. Each of them needs to step up in their own way. For Jay and Earl, it’s simple. Start clicking. Earl has been sort of pushed to the side since Jay’s buddy from Denver Brandon Marshall showed up. Let’s not forget, he was the Bears’ leading receiver over the last couple of seasons. Now, not only has he taken a back seat to Marshall, but he’s also been pushed behind Devin Hester and the recovering Alshon Jeffery.
I can’t think of a better place for Cutler and Bennett to get their groove back than in the town where it all began for them. I’d like to see the sure-handed Bennett more and not just on third downs. Use Marshall as a decoy once in a while and hit Bennett on a slant or splitting the seam on a post.
For DJ Moore, he needs to continue his solid play out of the nickelback position and fend off the hard charging Kelvin Hayden, who’s been pushing for playing time. Moore has a nose for the ball and I’d like to see him get in on the pick-6 parade.
Hassle or Be Hassled
The Titans probably catch a bit of a break this weekend as Matt Hasselbeck take the helm instead of second year starter Jake Locker. It’s not often that the backup quarterback steps in and it’s considered an upgrade, but in my estimation, that’s the case with Hasselbeck vs the Bears. He’s played the Bears 5 times in his career – a lot considering he’s never been a starter in the NFC North – and he’s got a record of 4-1 with a modest 82.3 passer rating. But for Hasselbeck, it’s about getting the job done and that’s what he does against the Bears. He’s seen the Cover-2 plenty and knows exactly where the soft spots are.
If the Bears want to leave Nashville with a win, they need to hassle the Hasselbeck. Pressure has been a key ingredient to the Bears’ success this season and Sunday should be no exception. Besides putting him under duress, the Bears need to mix up their coverages; give him some new looks and disguise more. The Titans are far from an offensive juggernaut, but Hasselbeck just finds a way to beat the Bears.
CJ2K is no JOKE
Chris Johnson has become the postchild for not giving running backs huge deals. Ever since he got paid, he’s been more of a J-O-K-E rather than CJ2K, a term referring to his 2009 2000 yard season. He signed a monster deal to end his holdout at the start of the 2011 season and barely got to the 1000 yard mark while posting a career worst 4 yards per carry.
He started off really slowly this season too, only gaining 186 in 4 games in September. Guess what, he’s picking up steam, gaining 409 yards in 4 games during October. He’s trending the wrong way for the Bears. With his speed, it’s one cut and we’re watching the 2 and the 8 on the back of his jersey. Gap discipline will be important as will taking good angles by safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte. Conte is coming off a rough game, so I look for him to bounce back big vs the Titans.
What do you think? What are your keys to a Bears victory? Let’s hear your ideas in the Comments.
See you all in Nashville, if my flight ever gets out.