Four Downs: Keys to beating the Rams (09/23/12)September 19th, 2012 - 5:57 pm
A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the St. Louis Rams.
1. Run the football
The Bears got away from the run against the Packers — although a better way of putting it is that they never got into it in the first place — and for no apparent reason, either. The game never got out of hand until the fourth quarter and it would have made more sense to use the duo of Matt Forte and Michael Bush to control the clock, slow down the Packers’ pass rush, and limit the Jay Cutler interceptions. Eventually Forte left the game with an ankle injury and the Bears finally started running the ball — go figure. Against a less talented Rams team, the Bears may be tempted to test the wings of their passing game, but a smarter move would be to establish the run early and keep the Rams guessing. Head coach Jeff Fisher is a defensive guy and will have his guys prepared, so the Bears need to keep them off balance. Forte reportedly practiced in spite of his ankle injury and his status for the game remains unclear, but Bush has experience as a starting running back and can handle the workload.
2. Be physical on the outside
The Rams have a talented young quarterback in Sam Bradford who has quite the arm when given time to throw. St. Louis outlasted the Redskins in Week 2 and nearly shocked the Lions in Detroit in Week 1 and they’ve been able to move the ball through the air. But their receivers are a bit short in stature — think Bears receivers of the last few years before they acquired Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Danny Amendola, 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds, leads the team — and the NFL — with 20 receptions. Fifth-year pro Brandon Gibson, only 6-feet tall and 205 pounds, has caught 6 passes for 104 yards and two scores. These players can be controlled if the Bears are physical with them at the line of scrimmage. By playing press coverage, the Bears can disrupt the routes, mess up the timing of the play, and give the defensive line more time to get to Bradford. On the other side of the ball, the Bears receivers need to be more physical than they were last week. Additionally, the Packers ran a lot of Cover 2 and the Bears receivers had a difficult time finding the openings.
3. Take care of the football
It goes without saying that the team that commits the fewer turnovers in a game will have the upper hand at winning the game. But this is an even more important statistic for the Bears coming off their disastrous game against the Packers. When Cutler gets flustered, he has a tendency to press and force his hand and that led to four interceptions last week. While the Rams aren’t exactly the same type of takeaway machine that the Packers defense can be, any NFL team will gladly accept the ball if you give it to them and the Bears can’t be committing unforced turnovers. At the very least, taking care of the football will help the Bears win the field position battle which is ever-so-crucial to the success of this offense.
4. Max protect if needed; use middle of the field to spread defense
You want to be able to use your talented weapons if you have them, but you have to know your limitations as well. The Bears, according to sources, left J’Marcus Webb on an island by himself against Packers linebacker Clay Matthews 11 times, which, needless to say, is a recipe for failure. By now, offensive coordinator Mike Tice should understand the handicap the Bears have at left tackle and plan and adjust accordingly. If the Bears can only send two receivers out in patterns, so be it. I still like Marshall’s chances of making a play in traffic. If he gets double covered, run the ball to keep the secondary honest. The other thing the Bears could benefit from doing is moving Marshall around including into the slot where he can work the middle of the field. If he sits underneath the secondary, he’ll prevent the Rams from blitzing their linebackers and that can free up running lanes as well as the receivers on the outside.