A look at four keys for the Bears to beat this week’s opponent.
1. Run the football; then run some more
It may be difficult or even improbable for Mike Martz to resist the temptation to pass the ball and instead focus on the run, but it’s not impossible. The Bears did run the ball 40 times with Matt Forte and Chester Taylor in a 23-6 Week 5 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Sure, Jay Cutler sat out of that game after suffering a concussion the previous week against the Giants, but running shouldn’t be a necessity based on who is quarterbacking. It should be used to attack a defense just as much as protecting the football. The Buffalo Bills have the worst run defense in the NFL after eight weeks. They’re allowing 188.7 yards per game on the ground and 5.0 yards per carry. It’s imperative that the Bears do not waste this opportunity to get their two running backs involved. Plus, it’s getting repetitive saying this, but the more the Bears run the football the less punishment Jay Cutler will take.
2. Take care of the football
The Bears turned the ball over six times against the Washington Redskins two weeks ago thanks to four Cutler interceptions and Cutler and Forte fumbles. They only lost the game by a field goal, so imagine what even one less turnover could have done for their prospects of winning the game. Generally, a team isn’t going to win a game by giving away the ball that many times, though. Credit the defense for playing a heck of a game, keeping the score close, and generating three turnovers of their own. Three takeaways in a game is the goal of Lovie Smith’s defense, but when your offense gives the ball away twice as many times, it’s pointless. The Bills have tossed seven interceptions and have a minus-5 turnover ratio, so they’re more than capable of giving away the ball. Why should the offense make the defense’s job that much more difficult by giving away the ball?
3. Play a full 60 minutes
The Bears will need a complete effort against Buffalo this week for two reasons. First, they’re just not good enough to win games on the strength of one or two good quarters. Second, the Bills have lost in overtime in back-to-back weeks to two of the better teams in the AFC, the Ravens and Chiefs. They’re aching to pick up their first victory of the season and they’ll fight to the last minute to get over that hump. As far as the Bears are concerned, no lead should be considered safe, if they get a lead at all.
4. Keep the football on the other end of the field
To maximize their opportunities to score and Brad Maynard’s effectiveness, the Bears need to operate from at least midfield for most of the game. We’ve seen a decline in the distance of Maynard’s punts over the last couple seasons as his tired, old leg continues to age. He currently has an average distance of 38.4 yards per kick, ranking him No. 34 in the league. Yes, there are still only 32 teams in the league, which means two backup punters have surpassed him. What this amounts to is that if the Bears offense is backed up deep in its own end of the field and then has to punt, it’ll be almost impossible to turn around the field position. You’d almost rather the defense allow the opponent to kick a field goal so that Danieal Manning and the kickoff return team can re-establish field position. This adds further emphasis on the offense taking care of the football so as not to give the opponent good field position on a turnover and it also means that the defense can’t give up long drives.