Will Bill Belichick change his defensive game plan for the Chicago Bears?

Chicago Bears - Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears - Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports /

Few coaches in sports history have found the success that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has. After winning six Lombardi trophies and tying Chicago Bears legend, George Halas on the all-time career wins list last Sunday, Belichick is as revered and admired as any coach in league history.

Being a more defensive-minded coach, Bill Belichick has no shortage of tricks up his sleeve. In fact, he has become notorious for throwing together defensive game plans that confuse and frustrate opposing offenses. While there are certainly elements of Belichick’s game that are rooted in deception and surprise, many of his tactics can be observed by the naked eye. Mainly his tendency to put an extra emphasis on the opposing offense’s best skill position player in hopes of scheming him out of the game entirely.

Will Bill Belichick change up his defensive scheme vs the Chicago Bears?

This strategy has been very effective for Bill Belichick and the Patriots and has become a staple of their defensive scheme. However, given the Bears’ current personnel, it’s fair to question whether this approach is necessary. It’s been no secret that the Chicago Bears lack high-end talent at wide receiver. Despite working in numerous different combinations this year, the Chicago offense has been unable to put together a group that can help Justin Fields perform to his best abilities.

With the possible addition of former Patriots receiver N’Keal Harry unlikely to move the needle, there doesn’t appear to be a player on the Bears’ offense that is worthy of the extra attention. One could actually argue that making a concerted effort to take someone like Darnell Mooney out of the game could open up opportunities for the other receivers to get open.

After losing star cornerback J.C. Jackson to the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency, most people expected to see the Patriots pivot from a man coverage defense to a zone one. However, in typical Belichick fashion, New England has continued to run heavy amounts of man coverage — ranking behind only the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants in man coverage rate. This is especially noteworthy for the Bears, given their troubles dealing with man coverage throughout the season.

Unlike zone coverage which allows receivers to find soft spots in the defense, the key to beating man coverage is for the receivers to beat the opposing cornerbacks, and that hasn’t happened very often this season for Chicago.

The only consistent answer the Bears’ offense has been able to muster up against man coverage this season has been Justin Fields’ scrambles. With one man on every receiver and one or two deep safeties, the middle of the field has often opened up for the Chicago Bears quarterback and given him room to run. However, this may not be sustainable as a quarterback spy or cover one robber, which has the Mike linebacker roam the field, would make it harder for Fields to break off big runs.

Another wrinkle to Belichick’s defense is cover zero. This is when the Patriots’ defense dials up a man blitz that has no deep safety help, hence the term cover zero. While this component of the Patriots’ defense is not as prevalent as it was in 2019 and 2020, New England still works it into their rotation from time to time. Chicago’s offense may be one of the least equipped in football to counter it.

For starters, Justin Fields struggles to get rid of the ball quickly. Any blitz forces him to get rid of the ball even quicker than normal. Second, as previously mentioned, the Bears don’t have the weapons that could scare the Patriots out of playing simple man. They struggle getting open to being with, and running a heavy blitz would require the pass catchers to get open very quickly.

All in all, Monday Night Football brings the Bears one of their biggest challenges. An offense that has struggled to sustain any level of consistency versus a high-flying defense led by one of the greatest minds in football history may be a recipe for disaster. But this is the reality of the NFL.

With the current limitations of the Chicago Bears offensively, it’s hard to imagine there aren’t any defensive coordinators salivating at the thought of facing them. This game could either serve as a turning point for both Fields and the offense or as another reminder of how far the Bears still have to go.