Four Downs: Keys to beating the Chargers (11/20/11)

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Philip Rivers leads the league with 15 interceptions, has lost four fumbles, and has been the third-most sacked quarterback (25) this year.
Philip Rivers leads the league with 15 interceptions, has lost four fumbles, and has been the third-most sacked quarterback (25) this year.

A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the San Diego Chargers.

1. Run the football

Last week, the Lions did a good job of game planning for Matt Forte and they cut off the outside lanes where the Bears have been so effective running the football this season. The Bears need to adapt to that because other teams will soon follow suit. The Chargers have a pretty good pass defense, ranked seventh in the league, but they’re only 24th against the run, allowing an average of 127.9 yards per game on the ground. They rank fifth in the league having allowed 10 carries of 20 or more yards. Last week, they gave up 157 rushing yards to Raiders running back Michael Bush. If the Bears can mix up their runs and keep the Chargers guessing, Forte could have a successful game.

2. Keep playing “Where’s Peppers?”

Remember the children’s book, Where’s Waldo?, where a reader would have to find where Waldo was hiding in each drawing throughout the book? That’s what the Bears essentially have been doing with Julius Peppers, lining him up in different spots along the defensive line to give opposing offenses different looks. The offensive line has to find where he is — which, with only four defensive linemen, isn’t nearly as hard to do as finding Waldo — and account for him. Peppers lined up at all four positions against the Lions and he got a sack while lining up at defensive tackle. The purpose of moving around Peppers, besides giving the offense different looks, is that Peppers can take advantage of weaker interior offensive linemen, and it’s harder for teams to chip Peppers when he’s at tackle. Plus, Peppers lining up inside helps create better pressure up the middle, which is better for blowing up plays in the backfield.

3. Take away the football

The Chargers are riding a four-game losing streak and part of the reason why is turnovers. San Diego has 11 turnovers since their bye week last month and are ranked third-to-last with a minus-eight turnover ratio. The Lions entered last week’s game with the Bears ranked first overall in turnover ratio and the primary reason the Bears won the game is that they generated six takeaways and scored 10 quick points in the first quarter off of two of those turnovers. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has been a turnover machine this year throwing a league-high 15 interceptions and losing four fumbles. He’s also been sacked 25 times, third-most in the league, which can lead to turnovers as well. (Jay Cutler has fallen down the charts to No. 5 with 23, for those who are curious.)

4. Get on the scoreboard early

As we’ve seen in the past month during their four-game win streak, the Bears play much better when they get out to an early lead. In the last four games, the Bears have outscored opponents, 40-2, in the first quarter. The reason why the Bears are much more likely to win those games is because under Lovie Smith, the Bears have a great record when entering the fourth quarter with the lead. We haven’t yet seen a good sample size this year of how the Bears would perform when playing from behind, with the exception of the Eagles game when they were losing by four early in the fourth quarter. Against the Chargers, who are prone to making mistakes, the Bears would be best served to jump out ahead early.

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