Will Tampa Bay Buccaneers force Chicago Bears offense to open up?

Chicago Bears (Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bears (Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports) /

We are about to learn just what the Chicago Bears offense can and should be when they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The reality of the past few weeks is that the Bears offense has been in a shell, limiting possessions and keeping their rookie quarterback protected.

Over the past three weeks, they have been the most run-heavy team, and it is not close. They run 7% more than the second most run-heavy team. Bears fans have wanted to be run first for a while now, but this has also resulted in slow play and low scores.

The Bears’ run-game effectiveness has worked but will be put to the ultimate test on Sunday when they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears skew run-heavy, but nobody runs on the Buccaneers.

They have been the best run-defense for three years, and names such as Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, and Devin White are all elite at stopping the ground attack.

With three years worth of reputation, teams have all but abandoned the run against Tampa. In 2021, teams run the ball just 27% of the time. Comparatively, the Bears have run the ball 59% in the past three weeks. Will the Bears continue to run, or will they follow other teams and bail to pass?

They should be looking to pass. While the run game has been efficient, it cannot be overlooked who they have played. The Lions, Raiders, and Packers rank 25, 19, and 26 in adjusted line yards. These are below-average run defenses, and Chicago took advantage.

Sunday, they play the number three team in adjusted line yards. It just is not the same. Beyond that, despite being a top-five unit in every area against the run, they rank 18th in expected points added and 20th in success rate against the pass. This is a group that signed Richard Sherman off of the street and saw him get injured already. They are down to the depth of their depth.

This is a team that has faced the likes of Matt Ryan, Jacoby Brissett, Jalen Hurts, and Mac Jones. Sure, Matt Stafford and Dak Prescott torched them, but those four also moved the ball through the air after their team abandoned the ground game.

So, this is not to say that Justin Fields will come out and torch the Super Bowl champs. However, it should be true that Fields will walk away with his career-high in pass attempts. The Bears need to come out and throw the ball and learn what Fields can and cannot do in a potential shoot-out. Running the ball and staying conservative can work against the Lions, and even the Packers bad run defense kept them in it, but the Bucs will not let this happen.

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Like every team, the Bears need to abandon the run, even though they do best. They need to look for Fields to test a bad secondary.