Previewing the Matchups within Bears @ Buccaneers

| September 14th, 2023

Following Sunday’s loss, the Tampa Bay game feels like a huge one for Chicago’s coaches coaches in particular — if you felt like I did, the most frustrating part about the Green Bay game was that the Bears’ supporting cast wasn’t nearly the issue it was in 2022.

  • WRs got open
  • DBs made plays in coverage
  • Tremaine Edmunds flew around in coverage (sometimes too much)
  • Andrew Billings went to war in the trenches
  • The OL, while inconsistent, held a pocket against a good DL through the first quarter
    • In particular, Braxton Jones & Darnell Wright played well enough given their matchups

This isn’t a recipe for automatic and unquestioned success, but it’s enough to put together a competitive performance — I thought Chicago outplayed Green Bay in the first half, but after the Packers hit on a few big plays in the 3rd Quarter, it felt like the wheels fell off. You could call it a lack of poise, you could call it a lack of faith, but when fans & analysts alike started questioning a team’s effort before the 4th quarter began, you’ve got more problems than just roster talent.

Chicago’s coaches can win back quite a bit of favor with a big win on the road, but how will they go about doing it? What does Tampa like to do on defense, and how can the Bears counter that? How will they shift things to stop the Bucs’ offense? Nick Whalen & I put together a hell of a game preview on today’s episode of Bear With Us, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts in print. Let’s get into it.

In Short…

The Bears’ talent isn’t incredible, but it should be enough to compete week-to-week — look at Flores’ Minnesota defense or what the Rams are doing on both sides of the ball. The problem wasn’t losing to Green Bay, it was how they lost and the perceived lack of poise both units had as the game got out of hand.

Ironically, Tampa Bay is coming off a win where I think they persevered through a talent mismatch themselves — Justin Jefferson & Cousins moved the ball well against the Bucs DB room. The Buccaneers also struggled to move the ball for long stretches of the game. Still, Bowles’ defense made juuuuust enough plays to allow Mike Evans & Baker Mayfield the chance to scrape a win out on the road. I’d like to see the same from ‘Flus and the Bears.

Tampa Bay’s OL isn’t Green Bay’s, especially now that Jensen is hurt, but I still see them as a unit that overmatches the Bears’ defensive line on 3rd down. After struggling to pass rush against Green Bay (PFF has CHI charted as generating just three pressures), can the Bears find ways to pressure Baker? If they can’t, I think Baker is good enough to find soft spots in Chicago’s zones. Chicago may have improved their zone integrity & communication after another week’s practice, but giving NFL QBs 3+ seconds of pocket time is rarely a winning strategy — they’ll have to hurry the Buccaneers’ quarterback.

Tampa’s DL is also a bad matchup with Chicago’s OL, especially CHI’s interior. So move the pocket! Get wide in the run game! Leverage misdirection! There are ways to take heat off your OL, even if they don’t erase the the mismatch altogether.

Will Chicago’s passing game remain dependent on their running game? If so, Tampa’s Defensive Line will have a chance to take over this game just as Green Bay’s did last week. In my opinion, Luke Getsy (and Justin Fields) can’t allow that to happen.

Bucs’ HC Todd Bowles likes to blitz and drop into a variety of coverages on the back-end — with 5 rushers likely coming from all over the defense on nearly 40% of plays, will Chris Morgan have Chicago’s OL ready to pass off rushers & pick up blitzes? Will Getsy have the offense’s hot routes ready? Is Fields ready to distribute the rock quickly when a blitzer comes free? These questions need answers, and they may tip the game’s balance.

The talent on Chicago’s roster presents challenges, but it should be enough to at a minimum compete for 4 full quarters. After last week, you’d expect the roster will be motivated to prove doubters wrong — if the players bring their best, it’s up to the coaches to weaponize them and win the game.

We’ll see what happens!

Your Turn: What do you expect to happen on Sunday?