Bears' success in a word: Solid
They are tough, hit hard and play with swagger that's almost nasty
Bears LB Lance Briggs levels Lions WR Calvin Johnson during Sunday's victory. (Scott Strazzante/Tribune photo)
Matt Bowen Scouting the Bears November 18, 2011
Forget game plans or X's and O's with the Bears right now.
We know Matt Forte can produce in the run game, Jay Cutler will work the middle of the field when he has protection and the defense can play some man coverage.
That's good, solid football that wins in the NFL.
However, I see a team on a four-game winning streak because it is tough, hits hard and plays with a swagger that can be almost nasty.
I call it controlled violence.
Play the game like pros, but finish off ballcarriers and drive defensive ends into the ground if they get near your quarterback.
Help them up and make sure to remind them you are going to knock them on their cans all afternoon.
This isn't the Lions we are talking about. Ndamukong Suh and his buddies played a dirty brand of football that extended well beyond the whistle Sunday. Cheap shots given out and a sign of a team that had grown frustrated with being physically whipped by Lovie Smith's squad.
Instead, the true, physical play for the Bears started with Julius Peppers pursuing to the ball on a screen pass to Calvin Johnson. He made the hit, got the ball out and sent a message that this attacking style would continue for four quarters.
And the Lions didn't run that play again.
This team wasn't perfect in their execution in beating the Lions. But you don't play perfect games in the NFL.
There will be times when your technique suffers or your footwork doesn't look polished. And individual matchups are not always won — because the other guy gets paid too.
But you always can hit and finish plays.
Teams like this gain a reputation around the NFL. Players and coaches see it on the tape. In those dark meeting rooms early in the morning or while you are trying to sneak in a late dinner after practice.
Wide-eyed, watching a team that pursues with speed on defense and comes off the ball along the offensive front.
And the tape never lies.
The game plan always will change, just as the Bears' has over the last month.
A stronger dedication to the running game, more sprint action for Cutler. Mike Martz, a coach that I have no problem calling "brilliant," adapting the play-calling finally to fit his personnel. (Finally!!!!!! What took this "brilliant" coach so long to realize that Matt?)
On defense, a unit that has been labeled as a Cover-2 team for nearlya decade is playing man coverage outside of the numbers, leading with zone pressure and challenging opposing wide receivers at the line of scrimmage.
However, what is drawn up on a chalkboard or handed out in a game plan meeting only scratches the surface of the top teams, the playoff teams in the NFL.
Underneath the playbook is a team that can run, hit and tackle. That's how you play the game and force opponents eventually to shut it down.
The Bears start their AFC West tour with the Chargers this Sunday at Soldier Field. A team they don't know from a personnel or scheme standpoint like an NFC North opponent.
There will be times when plays break down or mistakes are made. And it won't always look pretty. It's hard to win on Sundays in the NFL.
But with this group of Bears, one thing is for sure: they will play physical.
Run, hit and tackle. It can be a simple game when you break it down and step outside of the X's and Os.
Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.
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