A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars.
1. Make Blaine Gabbert beat you
Who? Exactly. The Jaguars have one of the top young running backs in the league in Maurice Jones-Drew, who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 88 rushing yards per game, which ranks him seventh in the league. But they have an erratic quarterback ranked second to last in passing yards per game with just 163.5 and is ranked 28th with a 55.8 completion percentage. Gabbert has also been sacked 12 times, sixth-most in the NFL, and is dead last with a paltry 5.8 yards per pass attempt. With the way the Bears pass rush is getting after quarterbacks this season, it could be a long afternoon for Gabbert and the Jaguars passing game. But if the Bears allow Jones-Drew to get into a rhythm, Gabbert can revert to a caretaker of the offense and level the playing field.
2. Attack them with a steady dose of the run game
Jacksonville has the 20th-ranked defense in the NFL and there’s a good chance the Bears will be able to do anything against them. But the Jaguars are much worse against the run, allowing 150.2 yards per game on the ground, ranking them 30th in the NFL. With a game plan similar to the one that offensive coordinator Mike Tice called against the St. Louis Rams two weeks ago — when it was Michael Bush carrying the load — the Bears should be able to pound the Jaguars into submission by adding Matt Forte into the mix. Even good offenses have trouble putting points on the board when their offense is spending more time on the sideline than on the field; can you imagine what the Gabbert-led Jaguars will do with limited reps?
3. Take shots downfield
There are no gimmes in the NFL, but this is about as close to one as the Bears will see all season. Going up against a team as troubled as the Jaguars in a stadium full of Bears fans — yes, on the road in Jacksonville — this game amounts to a live practice. This is the Bears’ opportunity to try to reinvigorate their passing game. They got a few things going last week against the Cowboys, but now they’ll be able to test the deep ball again, much like they did in Week 1 against the Colts. They need to get some confidence back and last week’s victory over Dallas was a good start. The Jaguars are worst in the NFL with just two sacks on the season, and even though I feel the Bears should run the ball consistently, they should have sufficient blocking from their offensive line to take shots down the field.
4. Scoring & Physicality: start early and don’t let up
When a team plays against inferior competition it has to keep focused so as not to play down to the competition. It’s important the Bears stay hungry in this one and focus on execution every minute of the game so that they won’t suffer a letdown moving forward. It took until the middle of the second quarter before the offense put up points against the Cowboys, but that was against the top-ranked defensive unit in the NFL. The Bears should be able to score early in this one, and if they can do that, along with playing physical from the outset, they should be able to bury the Jaguars quickly. From there, they have to finish strong and never take their foot off the pedal.