Four Downs: Keys to beating the Broncos (12/11/11)

December 7th, 2011 - 11:57 am
Tim Tebow's ability to run is why the Broncos have won five straight games and sit atop the AFC West; his inability to throw is why the Bears have a shot to beat the Broncos.

Tim Tebow's ability to run is why the Broncos have won five straight games and sit atop the AFC West; his inability to throw is why the Bears have a shot to beat the Broncos.

A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Denver Broncos.

1. Stop the run and force the pass

It’s a simple game plan yet for whatever reason it cannot be executed by Denver opponents: if you stop the run, you beat the Broncos. Denver is riding a five-game win streak behind the No. 1 rushing offense in the league, led by quarterback Tim Tebow. The Broncos employ an option offense that has been very effective in shredding defenses. Tebow is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and he’s scored three rushing touchdowns. He’s thrown just one interception this year and has an 87.9 passer rating, which would rank him 10th in that category if he had thrown enough passes. The thing is, he doesn’t. The Broncos not only run the option because Tebow has good size and speed, but also because he can’t throw the ball. He has a terrible delivery that is never the same from one throw to the next and he’s only completed 47.5% of his passes. The Broncos have not seen a defense quite like the Bears with athleticism on all three levels, and I’d like to see Tebow try to get around Peppers and past Urlacher and Briggs. The Bears have the best run defense the Broncos will have faced during their win streak.

2. Use the tight ends and backs more

Last week, the emphasis was on wanting to see the Bears attempt more passes down the field after Caleb Hanie started getting into a rhythm late in the game against the Raiders the previous week. But after we saw the terrible accuracy from him against the Chiefs and the heavy pressure that he was under, there’s a much simpler game plan Bears fans have to be yearning for: the John Shoop offense. Just dink and dunk your way down the field with short completions to the backs and tight ends that essentially serve as run plays. With Matt Forte out, the run game will need some help, and swing passes, screen passes, and checkdowns are the surest way to supply that help. Is it a gimmick offense? Sure it is. Will it win a Super Bowl? Of course not. But the name of the game for the rest of the regular season is winning, and doing whatever it takes to make the playoffs. As doubtful as it seems that Jay Cutler will return this season, the Bears have to hold on to their slipping playoff hopes as long as possible until Cutler either returns or is officially ruled out for the rest of the year.

3. Play a game of field position

The Bears were victims of poor starting field position in Hanie’s first start against the Raiders two weeks ago, thanks to incredible special teams play from Oakland. Last week was a slight improvement, but they still began many of their drives from deep in their own end of the field. Is it any wonder why they scored just one field goal against the Chiefs? This offense can’t sustain long drives, and in some cases, can’t even pick up one first down. The defense and special teams has to help them out by setting them up near midfield. Again, this isn’t about trying to win a championship because that goal is well out of reach as of right now. The goal is to put enough points on the board and hold the opponents to fewer points in order to stack enough wins until — and if — Cutler and Forte return.

4. Take away the football

Parlaying off of Key 3, the defense might have to win some games by itself by putting points on the board. If they can’t do this, they at least have to win the turnover battle and limit the opportunities that opponents have to score. Against the Broncos specifically, the Bears can win the game by finishing with a modest score. In the Broncos’ three wins prior to last week, they scored 17 points, 17 points, and 16 points, respectively. If the Bears play stout defense and take the ball away, we’ll be looking at a low-scoring game that the Bears offense can take if they can just get into field goal range.