Chicago Bears vs. Miami Dolphins: What To Expect and Who Will Win?
(Bears Featured Columnist) on November 16, 2010
On Thursday Night, the Chicago Bears travel south to the site of their 2006 Super Bowl defeat, as they battle an injury plagued Miami Dolphins under the bright lights of prime time.
Both Chicago and Miami are hoping to maintain momentum following big wins that have guided them closer towards postseason glory.
What should Bears and Dolphins fans expect from each team and who will prevail in the national spotlight? To answer these questions, let’s examine both teams’ strengths, weaknesses and likely courses of action.
Pass Rush: Like most 3-4 defenses, Miami excels at rushing the passer. Thus far, the Dolphins have compiled 23 sacks this season (11th in NFL). Against a questionable Bears’ offensive line, expect Miami to increase its sack total. The Bears should be particularly wary of LB Cameron Wake, who is quietly having a great season (8.5 sacks and 1 FF).
Offensive Line: Having allowed only 13 sacks all season, the Dolphins offensive line has risen to be the 3rd best line in the NFL. The highlight for this unit was a excellent performance against the mighty Steelers defense, a game the Dolphins gave up only one sack.
Unfortunately, for the Dolphins, OT Jake Long’s playing status for Thursday remains questionable following a shoulder injury sustained against Tennessee on Sunday. Without Long protecting the blindside, the Dolphins’ pass protection could suffer.
Wild Cat: The Dolphins run the wild cat better than any other NFL team. With RB Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown in the backfield, opposing defenses must account for two dynamic backs. Moreover, with Tyler Thigpen at QB, the Dolphins have the added threat of a highly mobile quarterback.
Passing Game: Yes, Tyler Thigpen had a good game against the Tennessee Titans. Moreover, with his previous team, the Kansas City Chiefs, Thigpen performed admirably, especially for a 7th round pick from Coastal Carolina. But, like most young QBs, Thigpen’s accuracy and decision-making remain a liability. Over his brief career, Thigpen has had a completion percentage under 60 percent and, while a Chief, he fumbled six times as a starter in 2008. Still, Miami has plenty to be excited about regarding this young QB.
Pass Defense: Miami’s pass defense has been underwhelming in 2010, mostly due to its inability to generate turnovers. The lack of INTs (6 all season) likely factored into the decision to sign former Packer Al Harris. How much of an impact Harris makes remains to be seen
Against a stout Chicago rushing defense, the Dolphins will need to pass their way to victory. With a solid offensive line, Thigpen should have time to throw in the pocket. Also look for Miami to utilize Thigpen’ s mobility in an attempt to neutralize the Bears’ pass rush.
Defensively, the key to victory is to pressure Cutler into mistakes. With the Bears’ offensive line still developing into a coherent unit, the Dolphins will blitz often. However, they must also contain Cutler in the pocket. Outside of the pocket, Cutler has excelled at finding open receivers down field.
QB Jay Cutler: Over the last two weeks, Jay Cutler has demonstrated improved decision-making, accuracy, and mobility. Last week, the former Vanderbilt standout passed for three TDs against a strong Vikings secondary. When Cutler has a hot hand, as he does now, the Bears offense becomes very dangerous.
Run Defense: With a healthy Brian Urlacher securing the middle of the field, the Bears defense has regained its dominance against the run. Currently, Chicago is the third best rushing defense in the NFL. This unit’s dominance was on display last week, as the Bears bottled up the dynamic Adrian Peterson, holding the Pro Bowler to just 51 yards.
Kick and Punt Return: After a two-year slump, KR/PR Devin Hester is back with a vengeance. Having compiled two punt returns for TDs this season and an average of 16.7 yards per punt, Hester has dramatically improved the Bears starting field position each drive. Devin Hester is, once again, ridiculous.
Run Game: The Bears running duo of Matt Forte and Chester Taylor has been mostly underwhelming this season. Both backs have averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry. Outside of its dominance against the pitiful Carolina Panthers, the Chicago run game remains stalled.
Offensive Line: The Bears offensive line has improved substantially since the bye week. Over the last two games, the unit has yielded less than two sacks. That said, this line is still developing and remains a glaring weakness for the Bears offense. LG Chris Williams—the former 1st round pick from 2008—struggled to contain Bills NT Kyle Williams two weeks ago. Meanwhile, 7th round pick, J’Marcus Webb was constantly beat by Vikings DE Ray Edward last Sunday.
Offensively, Chicago will likely stick to its current winning formula that emphasizes a balanced attack. The Bears will continue to use Cutler’s mobility to extend the play and keep defenders on their toes. Against a strong Miami running defense, Chicago may favor the pass more on Thursday night.
Defensively, Chicago will also stick to its winning formula that features a bend but don’t break defense that relies on DE Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije to pressure opposing QBs into mistakes. The Bears may use some extra blitzes against a strong Miami offensive line in an attempt to rattle Thigpen early in the game.
With an inexperience QB battling an elite Bears defense, Miami’s offense will likely struggle to score points most of the night. The best chance Miami has to reverse this outcome is to protect Thigpen and give him time to chip away at Chicago’s vulnerable secondary. However, with OT Jake Long injured, the Bears should generate enough pressure to keep Thigpen contained.
Meanwhile, behind excellent production from Devin Hester on kick and punt returns, Chicago’s offense should enjoy good starting field position. However, the Miami pass rush will likely keep Cutler and company from running up the score.
Considering the preceding analysis, the Dolphins should keep this game close, especially given that they are at home. Nevertheless, the Bears defense and special teams will put Chicago’s developing offense into enough scoring situations to seal a victory.
Assuming both sides stay healthy, Chicago wins 21-17, giving Lovie Smith his first win as a head coach against the Miami Dolphins.
I don't remember the last time we beat Miami. I hope tonight is the start of a long winning string against them...
The only Bears game I've ever been to was the defeat at the hands of Miami in 2006.
Please destroy them tonight.
Don't know how much of the Wildcat we will see tonight, but I would imagine more than they've run all year, given their QB situation. I did a preview post of tonight's game on my blog, http://www.starbustfootballinc.com and here's what I had to say:
Tonight's game in South Beach figures to be a good one between two teams that will be playing with a chip on their shoulder. The Bears sport a nice 6-3 record, but it is the fashion in which they lost those three games that seems to outweigh anything about their six victories. The Dolphins have recently been bitten by the injury bug, with injuries to their top two quarterbacks and their offensive line, yet"Phins Nation will tell you that they are better than their 5-4 record. Their four losses came to, arguably, the AFC's top four teams (New England, Pittsburgh, New York, and Baltimore), and they are out to prove that they are still very much in the mix for a spot in the AFC Playoffs. This should be a great game -- here are some storylines about the match-up:
New Signal-caller: Much of the buzz surrounding tonight's game is about Tyler Thigpen, the Dolphins' third team quarterback turned starter. This will be Thigpen's first start since the 2008 season when he played for Kansas City. While Chad Pennington is gone for the year, Chad Henne's injury isn't as serious as originally reported, and he should be back within a week or two. Despite that, a lot is riding on tonight's game for Miami, and much of their success will hinge on Thigpen's performance. For more on him, check out this StarBust article from earlier in the week.
Protecting the Quarterback: The Bears O-line has been much maligned this season, and rightfully so. Jay Cutler has been sacked 30 times this year -- that's six more than any other NFL QB. Last week against Minnesota Cutler had time to throw and the Bears were able to execute an effective offensive gameplan. It will be interesting to see how Jay's offensive linemen will handle a Cameron Wake-led Miami pass rush that is one of the best in the AFC. Cutler has also shouldered part of the blame for his sacks because of a tendency to hang onto the football. Miami is a team that has become tougher against the pass in recent weeks, so coverage sacks could come into play if he fails to get rid of the football in a timely manner.
Monsters of the Midway: While the offense has endured struggles, the Bears' defense has played very well this season. They are second in the NFL in both scoring defense (16.2 points/game) and defending the run (82.3 yards/game). If they can shut down Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, and the Dolphins' running game, it will force Tyler Thigpen to beat them through the air, which I'm sure is something Lovie Smith would welcome.
The Kicking Game: On paper, this game doesn't have the looks of a high scoring shootout, meaning that the game could easily be decided on special teams. Dan Carpenter (Miami) and Robbie Gould (Chicago) are two of the NFL's better field goal kickers, and both have the confidence of their respective coaches. Don't be surprised if this one is decided on a late field goal attempt by either one of them.
Minnesota didn't blitz much last week...I doubt our OL will be that lucky tonight. I expect alot of blitzes
I want to see Chad Pennington get hurt. lol
Hurt how? Splinters from the clipboard he will be holding?
Originally Posted by 4th and 26
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I think the team who brought the pressure was the Bears last evening!
You got your wish, that was a great game......
Originally Posted by Burnsy87
Hopefully, we can bring the heat on Michael Vick on Sunday.
Originally Posted by JustWinBaby