A look at four keys for the Bears to beat this week’s opponent.
1. Pressure Tony Romo and keep him in the pocket
For as bad as the Bears’ offensive line has played, the Cowboys are having problems of their own. Former Bear Marc Columbo missed Week 1’s game against Washington and his replacement was flagged for a holding penalty at the end of the game that cost the Cowboys the game. Columbo is expected to practice this week but he’s no guarantee to play against the Bears. Even with him in the game, the Bears can still generate pressure on Romo and the key will be to keep him in the pocket. Romo is one of the best quarterbacks in the league at evading a pass rush. It becomes an issue to the point of discouragement when a player nearly has him in his grasp and Romo ducks, spins, or otherwise moves around in and out of the pocket to avoid the sack. If Romo escapes the pocket, not only is he difficult to bring down but he’s that much more dangerous and the likelihood of him finding a receiver downfield increases dramatically. The Bears have to neutralize Romo’s mobility and make him get rid of the ball as quickly as possible.
2. Be physical
The last time the Bears faced the Cowboys — in Week 3 of the 2007 season — the Bears were physically beat into submission. Adewale Ogunleye, Nathan Vasher, Ruben Brown, Tommie Harris, and Lance Briggs were all hurt in that game. For those who consider Lovie Smith’s team to be too finesse and not enough power, that game was the defining moment. Heading into training camp, Smith talked about the need to return to the days of “The Monsters of the Midway.” He even had T-shirts printed up. If they’re going to live to that billing, this game will be their chance because the Cowboys are one of the most physical teams in football. They boast a talented three-headed monster at running back in Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice. Having a three pretty good backs can wear down any defense, specifically one like the Bears that is built more on speed than brute. If the Bears can’t come out and match the physicality of the Cowboys, then Dallas should be able to do anything it wants all game on both sides of the football.
3. Protect the football
How does a team rack up 463 total yards and only manage to score 19 points while just barely squeezing past its opponent, who had just 168 total yards? The answer is four turnovers. The Bears’ game plan was just fine against the Lions and their execution was about as good as anybody could ask for given the talent level on offense. Had they taken better care of the ball, they probably could have — and would have — scored 30 points. The Bears can afford to turn over the ball four times against a team like the Lions and still have a chance to win the game. Against the Cowboys, if the Bears turn over the ball that many times, they’ll get blown out.
4. Start fast, finish strong
The Bears will be visiting the Cowboys’ new stadium for the first time and due to the popularity of the two teams, the crowd will be enormous. It’ll get loud and will be difficult for the offense to hear. The bigger the hole the Bears dig for themselves, the harder it’ll be for them to climb out of it. Taking the crowd out of the game and keeping them on edge for the duration of the game will help neutralize that noise and make it easier to hear the plays being called and Jay Cutler’s cadence. If I were Mike Martz, I’d have the offense come out and run no huddle on the first possession using hand signals to relay the plays. It would catch the defense off guard and prevent substitutions and could get the Bears’ offense into a nice rhythm. Whatever they do, it’s imperative that they at least move the chains to prevent bad field position and, ideally, they’d march the ball down the field and score like they did against the Lions on the first possession.