A look at four keys for the Bears to beat this week’s opponent.
1. Shut down Cedric Benson
Benson has certainly revived his career in Cincinnati after a disappointing three-year stint with the Bears. He currently is the third leading rusher in the NFL and is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and 88.5 rushing yards per game. Not only is Benson doing good things with the ball when it’s given to him, but it’s given to him often. He leads the league with an average of 21.2 rushing attempts per game. The Bears will look to combat him with the No. 6 run defense in the NFL. They’ve had success stopping running backs Ryan Grant — who ran over the Bears last year — Willie Parker, and Michael Turner. They held Turner to just 30 yards and a 2.3 average. They have yet to give up a 100-yard game this year. Benson’s always been a player who wears a defense down throughout the game with his bruising run style and becomes more effective as the game goes on. Hopefully, the Bears will be playing with a lead in the fourth quarter so Benson doesn’t have the opportunity to carry the ball much.
2. Contain Chad Ochocinco
Ochocinco likes to run his mouth a lot, as we’ve all witnessed this week via Twitter. We also know he’s a talented receiver who torched the Bears in 2005. And thirdly, we know how poorly the Bears’ pass defense has played for the past year and a quarter. Some are comparing Ochocinco’s antics to that of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the former Bengal and current Seahawks receiver who talked trash leading up to their game with the Bears in Week 3. Houshmandzadeh was promptly shut down that game and even lost a fumble. Ochocinco, I can assure you, is a much better receiver who is more capable of backing up his talk on the field. I’m guessing the Bears’ strategy for covering Ochocinco may be the same as it was in the second half against the Lions when they had Charles Tillman shadow Calvin Johnson everywhere on the field. If it isn’t, it should be.
3. Generate a pass rush
Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is arguably the best quarterback the Bears will have faced so far this season and, if given time, he will systematically dismantle the Bears’ secondary. So, once again, it falls on the defensive line to bring pressure and try to get to Palmer. Palmer has been sacked 11 times, which is 12th most in the league, so he can be brought down. If the defensive line can’t bring the pressure, it’ll fall upon Lovie Smith to send his usual array of blitzes, although ideally it’d be better if the linebackers could drop back in coverage to help the defensive backs against Cincinnati’s talented receivers.
4. Win the turnover battle
Turnovers hurt. Badly. And if you haven’t yet bought into Lovie Smith’s theory on taking the ball away, you probably never will. But you needn’t look any further than this past Sunday’s game against Atlanta in which the Bears were haunted by turnovers, particularly in the red zone. That, and the opportunity to get turnovers that never materialized, such as when Lance Briggs tried to pick up a fumble and take it to the house and he instead kicked it back to Matt Ryan. Field position is one of the most important factors in determining a winner, and turnovers and good special teams will put a team in good field position. Palmer can be rattled. He and Jay Cutler are currently tied for fourth in the NFL with 7 interceptions. Realistically, this game could come down to whichever quarterback has the better game. If the Bears’ defense can generate some turnovers, Cutler and the offense can capitalize and put points on the board.