Bears-Bills: Four things to watch on Sunday
November 6, 2010 3:57 PM
http://www.chicagobreakingsports.com...-smith-620.jpg Bears coach Lovie Smith. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Tribune)
By Brad Biggs
1. Time on their side?
One of the marks of a well-coached team is that it takes advantage of extra preparation time. The Bears have shown that in the past, especially on defense, dominating the Colts in the 2008 season opener. But Lovie Smith is 3-3 following an off week and the Bears have had 14 days to prepare for the Bills. The Seahawks showed some new wrinkles when they had an extra week to prepare for the Bears last month. Eagles coach Andy Reid will try to run his record to 12-0 following an off week Sunday against the Colts. Have the Bears used their extra time wisely?
2. Health club
You can't minimize the significance of the Bears' good health through the first half of the season. They're in good shape with Roberto Garza returning to right guard after missing two games following arthroscopic knee surgery. Rookie safety Major Wright also should see his first action since Week 2. The division-leading Packers are in much different shape with 10 players on injured reserve, including a league-high five starters. That creates the kind of trickle-down effect that can cripple a team later in the season. The off week came at the perfect time for linebackers Brian Urlacher (groin) and Lance Briggs (ankle). Expect the defense to play fast.
3. Buddy system
The Bears have talked about needing continuity on the offensive line yet they've done nothing but tinker with the five-man unit while fending off minor injuries. They'll go to their fifth combination in eight games with Garza moving to right guard. The hope is it's the final move that's made. The idea is Garza can upgrade two positions -- the spot he is playing and right tackle. Rookie J'Marcus Webb is the project Mike Tice is most excited about. He ha been solid at times but overwhelmed occasionally. He had been playing next to similarly inexperienced players. Garza can help him, especially on third downs.
4. Open invitation
When offensive coordinator Mike Martz on Wednesday professed an "absolute" desire to run the ball more, he became the last in a long line of key figures to talk about the need to emphasize the ground game. From running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor to quarterback Jay Cutler, Tice, coach Lovie Smith, we've heard the same thing over and over. The Bills are on pace to have the NFL's worst rushing defense in three decades. So it's fair to assume the Bears will pound the ball at them. The real question is whether or not Martz will continue to run the ball in coming weeks.