Strong Running Game and Defensive Takeaways Needed to Win Out.....
Strong running game and takeaway defense key
Bears need to frustrate Eagles' rush to expose weakness at linebacker
Mike Mulligan 7:43 p.m. CDT, November 1, 2011
Bears coach Lovie Smith was talking about defensive linemen Tuesday when he said something offensive coordinator Mike Martz ought to write down 50 times on a chalkboard, or better yet, cast in stone. (Moses could probably do that for you but would he listen)
Smith was debunking the idea that a defensive end is more important than a three-technique tackle in any football system, including the Bears scheme where the inside guy always has been the signature position. The premise Smith frowned upon was the idea you would rather have a Julius Peppers than a Warren Sapp because when you double-team the outside guy it takes a route-runner out of the offense. (Only in Martz's offense so it seems since he won't throw to the TE's anyway) "I don't agree with that,'' Smith said. "I don't think that necessarily stops you from getting a guy into a route. When we use it, we are still getting a guy out, he's just getting out late. Most of the time when you chip a guy you use him as a checkdown so he is still a pass receiver. When are you ever going to the fifth receiver, the fourth receiver? How often do you get to the third receiver? So sending that many guys out is kind of over-rated a lot of the time.'' (Now if you can get your OC to live by these rules we may actually get somewhere)
That is the point, of course. If you aren't eliminating a route runner with a defensive end good enough to force a double team, you at least are delaying that route and with it a chance to get a guy downfield. Doesn't forcing a tight end into a two-yard route play perfectly into the entire concept of the Cover-2 where the main idea is to limit big plays? Smith loves pass rushers wherever he can find them and says they are all of extreme value.
Regardless, Smith's comment speaks directly to the main issue for the Bears in Philadelphia on Monday night. It speaks to protection, helping the offensive line hold up on the road against a great pass-rushing defensive line in a key game. (It is key to getting Cutler the protection he needs to throw. Babin has as many or more sacks than Jared Allen and we're gonna need to do a similar job on him as well. Use the TE's to chip Mike you don't throw to them)
The last time the Bears were in such a position they false-started in Detroit.
You will hear a lot this week about how the Eagles' "wide-9" technique ends, Jason Babin and Trent Cole, they line up in a sprinter's stance two yards outside the tackles. Cole has been to two Pro Bowls and Babin one, but another guy who gives the Bears fits is defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, a former Packer and the younger brother of Kris Jenkins, one of Peppers' old linemates with the Panthers.
The offensive game plan against the Eagles should include plenty of six- and seven-man protections that feature two tight end sets and a healthy dose of Matt Forte runs, screen passes and short checkdowns. (Exactly, move the ball downfield consistently and screw the big play. We need a big game on the ground and the TOP advantage to win. If they can force us to pass against that rush and those CB's we're gonna hurt)
The idea is to work the Eagles linebackers, the main deficiency of their defense, and try to hit the big-name secondary with some play-action. If the Bears think about getting to a fourth or fifth receiver it's going to be a very long night for Jay Cutler. (It's time for Martz to take those out of his arsenal. Lovie should make him write no more empty backfields 1000 times)
The Bears need a victory over the Eagles if they are going to make a playoff run. They are third in the NFC North, but have victories over the Bucs and Falcons in the NFC South. They need the Saints to hold up as a division champion. The NFC West isn't going to produce a playoff team beyond the likely division champion 49ers.
That leaves the East, where the Giants have some breathing space and the Eagles are suddenly on the rise after a blowout of the Cowboys. If Smith continues his recent run against Andy Reid — the Bears are 3-1 against the Eagles since 2007 — the Playoff Express is on time. A loss could mean missing out despite a potential 10-victory season.
As always, the game will come down to how well the Bears can play on defense and special teams. The Eagles want to score on big plays and make teams throw against their pass rush. The Bears need to counter by taking the ball away. Michael Vick has been a fumbling machine and stellar running back LeSean McCoy also keeps the ball away from his body. (Like the header says, strong running game and an opportunistic defense. Urlacher usually makes Vick his bitch so lets' hope that continues)
"That is something we have noticed,'' cornerback Tim Jennings said. "That's the style they run and (McCoy) feels comfortable when he gets hit, he's tucking it. He's not fumbling, but it's out there. It's out there so we are going to take our shots.'' (Peanut should be licking his chops over this. Prying that ball away is his game and he's damn good at it)
Here's hoping they do more delivering shots than taking them.
Special contributor Mike Mulligan co-hosts "The Mully and Hanley Show" weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670.
Can't say enough about the need for Martz to keep the running game in the forefront and not force Cutler to pass against them with minimal protection. If there's gonna be a change in how he game plans and calls plays this is where we'll find out.
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