This is what I wrote in yesterday’s game preview:
Do the Bears have any hope of stopping Julio Jones? The answer is unequivocally no. The Falcons line up Jones everywhere and run him on as creative an array of routes as you’ll see designed for a premier wide receiver. He’ll run a go from one side, a slant from the other and a shallow cross from the slot on three consecutive plays. Will the Bears deploy Kyle Fuller on Jones for the entirety of the game? Doubtful. Jones is too good to isolate in man over the full sixty minutes. I’m having a hard time not envisioning a 10-catch, 140 yard performance.
I’ve thought about this paragraph for a day or so. On the heels of Tim Jennings referring to the defensive approach against Carolina as “vanilla” this is the Sunday for Marc Trestman and Mel Tucker to go Rocky Road…or Rum Raisin…or pick the ice cream flavor of your choice since they are all infinitely less boring than vanilla. How do I mean?
Julio Jones leads the league in catches (40), targets (T-1, 57), yards (552), first downs (28) and plays of 20+ yards (12). This is not a good wide receiver the Bears are facing Sunday. This is, as of this moment, with Calvin Johnson ailing, far and away the best wide receiver in the league.
Can you stop him? Probably not. Can you make his life miserable for sixty minutes and force Matt Ryan to look elsewhere? Absolutely. Remember, I am not an X’s and O’s football writer. There are plenty of people out there to read if that’s what you’re looking for. My belief continues to be football is a sport where coaches put players in positions to make plays and the ones who make them are the ones who are successful. I continue to argue scheme/play-calling is the most overrated aspect of the NFL.
Let me show you, in crude drawings, how I might approach Jones Sunday.
There are a lot of reasons not to like the Chicago Bears after their disastrous fourth quarter in North Carolina. There are a lot of reasons to think the media/fan negativity is entirely warranted. This team may continue struggling to mount drives. They may continue to make horrible special teams errors. They may continue giving up yardage in huge chunks. So with that…
Why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?
I always like the Chicago Bears.
(1) Having seen the success the Panthers had late, will Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan continue his attempts to compensate for his ineffective front four by utilizing extra personnel to pressure Cutler? Against the Giants, this left gaping holes in the middle of the field and Eli Manning dissected the Falcons. Expect Matt Forte to settle underneath the Falcons secondary and provide check downs for Cutler all afternoon.
(2) Can Desmond Trufant recover from his dismal performance against the Giants with the wide receiver talent increasing Sunday? Trufant is constantly left on an island with receivers, specifically in the red zone. If I am Jay Cutler this is a week to unleash the vertical passing game and allow Marshall and Jeffery to make plays even when they seem to be covered.
(3) Do the Bears have any hope of stopping Julio Jones? The answer is unequivocally no. The Falcons line up Jones everywhere and run him on as creative an array of routes as you’ll see designed for a premier wide receiver. He’ll run a go from one side, a slant from the other and a shallow cross from the slot on three consecutive plays. Will the Bears deploy Kyle Fuller on Jones for the entirety of the game? Doubtful. Jones is too good to isolate in man over the full sixty minutes. I’m having a hard time not envisioning a 10-catch, 140 yard performance.
Administrative Note: I will be recording a podcast with Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times this afternoon to take the pulse of the Bears locker room. The pod will post either evening or tomorrow morning. Felt like the right week to do it.
The Bears needed 2-2 over this four game stretch. If they’re going to achieve that mark without HAVING to win in New England, Sunday’s game is pivotal. I had penciled in a loss at Atlanta at the start of the season but a win in Carolina. If the Bears leave Georgia victorious the debacle in North Carolina will be a fading memory.
What I like about the game Sunday is Atlanta will score points and most likely plenty of them. The offense, currently under warranted fire, will need to deliver a big performance.
The Bears play three of their next four games on the road: at the Martz-had-no-use-for Greg Olsen in Carolina, at the Lovie-found-no-use-for Devin Hester in Atlanta and at Tom Brady and the now prematurely-buried Patriots. Sandwich in a home game against the Miami Dolphins and you have a four-game stretch that will set this season’s tone. Some teams battle for division titles. Some teams chase the top of the table all year long. How the Bears perform over these four games will position them in one of those two categories.
This is not a long-winded column. This opinion does not require a ton of explanation. When the Bears emerge from their bye week in November they play five of the their final eight games at home, including the warm weather, dome-based Saints and Cowboys in Soldier Field on cold evenings where both have been unmitigated disasters in the past. The other three games are at their division rivals. Those eight games will define the 2014 Bears.
Four out of four means the Bears are title contenders. Three out of four means they’re a serious playoff team. Two out of four means they’ll have a meaningful final two months of the season. Anything less is a crap shoot. Anything less than .500 over these next four games will be a serious cause for concern and more than likely leave the Bears with a second wild card ceiling.
To paraphrase Al Davis, “Just win…half of em…baby.”
Sunday September 7th – Noon
Sunday September 14th – SNF
Monday September 22nd – MNF
Sunday September 28th – Noon
Sunday October 5th – Noon
Sunday October 12th – Noon
Sunday October 19th – Noon
Sunday October 26th – Noon