Four Downs: Keys to beating the Rams

December 4th, 2009 - 9:23 am

A look at four keys for the Bears to beat this week’s opponent.

1. Stop Steven Jackson
Jackson did not fully practice this week and is questionable for the game on Sunday, but my hunch is that he’ll play. If he does, he’s a force to be reckoned with. Jackson trails only Tennessee’s Chris Johnson for most rushing yards in the league. He averages 101.8 yards per game on the ground and has a 4.7 yards per carry average. In a sign of how bad the Rams truly are, Jackson has just four rushing touchdowns this year. Furthermore, because of the Rams’ ineptitude at quarterback this year, Jackson trails only Cedric Benson for the most rushing attempts per game with 21.6. Allowing Jackson to obtain more than 100 yards won’t necessarily spell doom for the Bears. Keeping him out of the end zone is a must, though.

2. Limit the turnovers
The Rams and Bears are tied with a minus-5 turnover ratio, which means turnovers will play a factor in determining the winner. The Bears are the better football team, but not by enough to afford losing the turnover battle by a big margin. The Bears appear ready to trot out Chris Williams at left tackle this week, so we’ll see how he does in his new role and whether he can protect Jay Cutler adequately enough not to speed up Cutler’s internal clock and lead him to force too many passes that may get picked off. The Rams have just 18 sacks this year, fourth-lowest total in the league, so I think Williams will do fine.

3. Jump out to an early lead
Putting points on the board early, something that hasn’t been easy for the Bears this season, will be beneficial for two reasons. First, the Rams can’t catch up by running the football, so they’ll have to take the ball out of the hands of Jackson and put it into the hands of quarterback Kyle Boller. Boller has been a spectacular failure since being drafted with the 19th overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2003 draft. I’ll take my chances with him over Jackson. Second, the Rams are averaging just 11.8 points per game this year, third-lowest total in the league. If the Bears can score early and often enough, they should be able to put up a point total that’s out of reach for the Rams. Then again, the Bears’ defense has allowed a lot of “firsts” for opposing offenses this year.

4. Run the ball
Matt Forte is 25th in the league with 543 yards. He has just 3.3 yards per carry, the lowest mark for a starting running back in the NFL. The Bears as a team are the worst rushing offense in the league. So, why do I think the Bears can run the ball? Because the Rams have the fifth-worst run defense in the NFL. I’m not expecting anything flashy, but I could see the Bears having the marginal success they had in games against the Lions and Browns. Running the ball effectively will clearly take time off the clock and take pressure off Cutler. Plus, ramming the ball down an opponent’s throat does take its toll both physically and mentally and could help the Bears put away the Rams late in the game.