Run the ball and stop the run. That’s what we were told makes successful football teams for the majority of my life. Run the ball and stop the run. Well after ten games the Bears are the 18th best rushing team in the league and only the Jacksonville Jaguars are worse at defending the run. (This is almost unfair being that Jacksonville has a points differential of -189 and teams are basically running at them non-stop from the middle of the third quarter on.)
Where does this mediocre rushing attack/awful rush defense currently sit? Of course! They’re tied for first place! So why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?
I always like the Chicago Bears.
BUT WHAT FOOTBALL REASONS, JEFF?
- The NFL now ranks the Bears as the 9th best offense in terms of yardage and the Aikman Efficiency Rankings have them 8th. So now matter what numbers you’re looking at the Bears are a top 10 offense in the sport. If Bears fans had been told in August the team would be ravaged by injury on defense and play Josh McCown for two and a half of the first ten games and STILL be tied for first place in the division…how hard would the laughter be? That’s how impressive a first year this has been for head coach Marc Trestman.
- One thing that is sneaking up on the Chicago Bears this season: Alshon Jeffery is only ten receiving yards behind Brandon Marshall and has 100 more total yards from scrimmage due to the almost insane success of the AJEA (Alshon Jeffery End Around). I wrote in August that Jeffery’s emergence was the second most important factor for the Bears to have a successful 2013. I didn’t expect this level of emergence. (Side note: I expect to see the AJEA this week as a means of slowing down the Rams defensive ends.)
- The way to beat the Rams, especially in their building, is to run the ball down their throats. St. Louis’ defenses thrives when it can hurry your quarterback with their terrific ends and free their gutsy corners to make plays on the ball. When they’ve been relegated to mediocrity is when backs like Chris Johnson have controlled the tone and tempo of the game.
- Playing in a dome is a significant benefit to the Chicago Bears this week due to the presence of Josh McCown, as the backup QB struggled to get the ball through the Soldier Field wind Sunday. In St. Louis I expect Marc Trestman to attack the Rams by getting the ball into the hands of the big weapons on the outside quickly and forcing Rams corners to make tackles.
- Who would have thought the return of Shea McClellin would be so exciting? McClellin has never had the opportunity to follow-up his Packers-sinking performance of two weeks back and now he’ll be able to work into a rotation with Julius Peppers and David Bass. Kellen Clemens is not going to extend plays with his legs. He is not going to shake off pressure in the pocket. The Bears outside rush can dominate this game if they find themselves around the quarterback.
- Evolution of Jon Bostic is palpable. There have been 3-5 plays a game where he bursts off the screen. The way I phrase it, when watching tape, is he makes you ask “What number was THAT?”
- Could write the following two sentences every week. The Bears have Matt Forte. The other guys don’t.
NATIVE ST. LOUIS BEER COMMERCIAL
When my grandfather was serving in the second World War he used to drink Griesedieck Brother Beer by the box load. Here is a classic radio ad from this native St. Louis booze.
Sounds delicious to me.
DA BEAR CONCERNS
- Concern #1. If you had to guess the line for Zac Stacy Sunday, where do you start? He’s had at least twenty-six carries over the last three games for an average of about 108 yards per game. He’s scored three touchdowns. So against the Bears rush defense I will predict 27-165-2.
- Concern #2: Jared Cook has had a nothing season in St. Louis (especially since Bradford went down) but I can’t imagine him not being targeted 7-10 times this week. Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson were the chain movers in the Ravens passing game a week ago; settling into space and beating over-matched safeties. Why wouldn’t one expect Cook to do the same?
- Concern #3: Rams have 12 sacks from Robert Quinn, 6.5 from Chris Long and 32 sacks on the season. (William Hayes is an emerging star on the unit.) This is one of the best pass-rushing teams in the league, especially on the quick surface. They can wreck games.
- Concern #4: Was Tavon Austin‘s coming out party against the Indianapolis Colts a coming out party or an anomaly in an otherwise disappointing rookie campaign? The Dispatch’s terrific Bernie Miklasz commented in the newspaper’s bye week Football Friday program that it took the Rams ten weeks to understand Austin’s strength is on the shallow crossing routes. (How is that even possible? Brian Schottenheimer is how.) But the Bears have a pretty big hitter manning that part of the field these days.
MATCH-UP OF REMARKABLE IMPORTANCE
- Rams guards Chris Williams & Rodger Saffold v. Bears DTs. Jeff Fisher opted to start Saffold in place of Harvey Dahl (MCL injury) against the Indianapolis Colts – pairing him with former Bear Williams – and reports are the former tackle moved inside for the first time since the seventh grade and played well. With Stephen Paea certain to miss this week’s game, Corey Wootton will move inside from the start. Woot has shown the ability to be a disruptive presence in the middle but unsurprisingly lacks the consistency of a player with a resume at tackle. Who will line up beside him? Landon Cohen? Christian Tupou? Where are the Bears going to find viable snaps at the position most ravaged by injury? It sounds like two weeks until Jeremiah Ratliff joins the group.
Football is a chess match. Marc Trestman’s explanation as to why he didn’t use his timeouts against the Ravens was the most detailed, informative and interesting illustration of that concept I’ve ever encountered. Here is the full transcript as provided by Rich Campbell in the Tribune:
“When you call timeouts at the end of halves, you want to call them in succession if you can. If you’re calling them just hit or miss, there’s really no value in them. So just a little bit of history: When you start a drive from the 16-yard line, you have a 13 percent chance, probably, over the last five years to score a touchdown. And you have to take that into consideration when you go into the game. And then when a team’s driving, you’ve got to know what they have, and you’ve got to know what you have. They had two timeouts at the time, and we have three timeouts.
Well, the normal thinking is you never want to leave the game with your three timeouts. You want to get them back, especially in those situations. But the fact of the matter is there was really no time to use the timeouts. And when you’re in a two-minute situation, if you use your timeouts, and there’s no way you can call them in succession, you give them more time on each and every play to get the people out there they want to get that play done. So you have to consider that.
So really only the first time where I considered really calling a timeout was after Ray Rice had the 11-yard run to the 5-yard line. And he took that ball, probably, I think it was about at 1:16 when he had that ball. That was the first time. I was down there with the official. That was the first time. But when you put … the numbers all together, if you call three timeouts right there in succession, you’re still only getting the ball back at 18 seconds, OK? If you let it run, they’re in a two-minute mode, OK? And now they’ve got to call two timeouts, so a couple things come into the play with their using their two timeouts.
No. 1, they didn’t call a timeout on the first one, which means they had to call a play out of their two-minute package instead of using their red-zone package. So that’s No. 1. They didn’t call a timeout and get into different personnel groupings to call the play. And then by using their two timeouts, we knew what they had to do on third down. They had to throw it because there wasn’t enough time left to do anything else. So we cut the percentages in half from run to pass. And then there was just one big leap of faith. But if we call three timeouts in a row, we’ve got 19, 18 seconds left at the max. So the percentage of them scoring — it’s a leap of faith. I mean, they went all the way down the field. Three points, yes. Tie the game. Seven points, we’re talking 13 percent.
“And then from an offensive standpoint, as a play-caller, I know if you call timeout, you can get what you want out there. If not, you’ve got a limited bag of plays you can use. So that’s the reasoning behind it. I would have loved to have been able to have a situation when they were running the ball and they started to get in that field goal area where we could have plugged the timeouts each one on top of each other, but it wasn’t the case.”
You don’t have to agree with everything Trest does. But you have to appreciate the man’s approach.
MOST INTERESTING PLAYERS ON THE FIELD
- Rams QB Kellen Clemens. Clemens is not a good player and hasn’t played particularly well since taking over for Bradford. (His numbers are deceiving because of Tavon Austin’s ridiculous performance against the Colts. See below.) To beat this Bears defense, even debilitated by injury, you must be an accurate passer on the intermediate routes and accuracy is not Clemens’ strong suit.
- Bears S Chris Conte. If the Bear Concerns are a speed receiver, tight end and explosive run game, much of the big play prevention onus will fall onto Conte (because Wright won’t be of much help). The much-maligned safety has now strung together his two best games of the season, back-to-back, and his resurgence has been the key to the defense’s least embarrassing performances of the year. If Conte plays a solid game, the Bears won’t have to chase the game Sunday.
A SINGLE STAT PREDICTION
- Eben Britton logs his most snaps this season, providing support to Jordan Mills throughout the afternoon.
THIS VIDEO HAS A LITTLE TO DO WITH FOOTBALL
- The Official Lady of DaBearsBlog and I adopted two eight-week old kittens recently and we took it upon ourselves to train them with proper tackling technique. The orange tabby is called Bear. This is him executing a perfect form tackle on his sister, Beatrix. (It occurs at about the 12 second mark.)
PLAYER YOU MAY NOT KNOW
- Cory Harkey is listed as the Rams backup tight end but he has settled into something of a mauling H-back role. He is 6’4″, 260 and born and raised in the city of Chicago. If the Bears are going to stop the run Sunday I get the feeling Jon Bostic and the linebackers will need to shed Harkey a few times.
WRAPPING IT UP IN A FEW SENTENCES
- Bears inability to stop the Rams rush attack forces Conte and Wright up towards the line of scrimmage and leaves them vulnerable to Austin over the top and Cook in the seam. But the Bears offense makes more big plays, capitalizes on a few Kellen Clemens turnovers and wears out the fourth quarter clock like the only pair of jeans in a young man’s closet with Matt Forte, Matt Forte and a bit more Matt Forte.
- Chicago Bears 27, St. Louis Rams 20