Four Downs: Keys to beating the Eagles (11/28/10)

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

1. Force Michael Vick to his right
The New York Giants had the right game plan to contain Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, but could not execute it as needed. Perhaps the Bears, who have great team speed and run a defense geared toward containment, can have better luck. Vick is a left-handed quarterback and such players are more comfortable throwing while moving to their left. If Vick has to go to the right, he’ll have to throw across his body, which is bad for two reasons. First, it takes longer to torque the upper body which will allow the defense to better anticipate a pass and jump routes quicker. Second, you lose technique, accuracy, and strength by throwing across your body. The athleticism of Julius Peppers, who generally lines up on the right side of the defensive line (the left side of the offense), will allow him to keep containment and prevent Vick from getting outside of him. Peppers has huge size, which will make it more difficult for Vick to throw over the top of him.

2. Don’t get beat deep by DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin
The Eagles have great team speed in addition to just Vick. Wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are explosive playmakers that can stretch the field and burn defenses deep. Their speed can make them dangerous after the catch and even by allowing them to catch passes in front of the secondary, there’s no guarantee they won’t score. What makes the receivers most dangerous is Vick’s ability to scramble, throw on the run and make plays with his legs. If Vick rolls out and appears to be tucking the ball away, he can trick the defense into thinking he’s going to run with the ball and then pull up to throw deep. It’s imperative the secondary doesn’t break coverage until Vick crosses the line of scrimmage, taking the pass option away.

3. Take shots downfield, but maintain balance on offense
The Eagles’ pass defense has given up seven plays of 40-plus yards — seventh-most in the league — and have allowed 18 passing touchdowns — ninth-most in the league. Their defense can be susceptible to the pass, yet they’re also a dangerous and opportunistic defense, leading the league with 19 interceptions. The Bears will have the opportunity to take their chances passing the ball down the field, but Jay Cutler has to be careful with the ball and not force anything. If the Bears continue the same formula they’ve used in the past three games by staying committed to the run, they’ll be able to run play-action more effectively and could catch some breaks in the passing game.

4. Keep the defense fresh and win the time of possession
Time of possession is going to be an important statistic in this game. Obviously, the longer you have the ball, the more chances you have at scoring. But the time of possession is particularly important in this game in order to keep the defense fresh and resting on the sideline. Due to the team speed the Eagles boast, the defense could get worn down quickly if they’re on the field for extended periods of time. Another reason for the Bears to hold onto the ball as long as possible is that the Eagles have the second-highest scoring offense in the league, averaging 28.4 points per game. The Bears, by contrast, are ranked No. 25 with just 19.1 points per game. They can’t get into a shootout.

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