Four Downs: Keys to beating the Cardinals (12/23/12)

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The Bears will have to be extra careful with the ball against a playmaking Cardinals defense.
The Bears will have to be extra careful with the ball against a playmaking Cardinals defense.

A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Arizona Cardinals.

1. Run, run, run … and then run some more

We all know the benefits of running the football by now. It keeps the clock moving, the opposing offense remains on the sideline, and it dictates the tempo and control of the game. The Cardinals have the fifth-worst run defense in the NFL, allowing 136.5 rushing yards per game. They lead the NFL in interceptions, though, so it’s important the Bears stay committed to the run game to avoid having to contend with the Cardinals’ ball-hawking secondary. The Cardinals also lack the offensive firepower to play from behind, so if the Bears can jump out to an early lead and maintain control of the clock with their run game, it’ll limit opportunities for the Cardinals to make a comeback.

2. Use the short pass as supplemental run

The Bears have had big problems in third and long situations this year and it usually comes when they’re being too predictable with their play calling. If the offensive line struggles to create holes early on, they should use the short middle of the field to pick up 4-6 yards on first or second down to try to put themselves in a more manageable third down situation. The short middle, of course, is prime territory for the tight end position, but since I don’t trust Kellen Davis any further than I could throw him — which I think is the same attitude Jay Cutler has toward him — I would use Brandon Marshall, Earl Bennett — if he’s available — and even Matt Forte out of the backfield to cover those short patterns.

3. Blitz the quarterback and make him bail out

The Cardinals have a disaster at the quarterback position. They’ve had three players spread the workload throughout the year, which brings back painful memories when the Bears used to cycle two or three quarterbacks almost annually. Rookie Ryan Lindley — yes, who? — was the latest to see action for the Cardinals and he did virtually nothing in the team’s victory last week over the Lions. No matter who takes snaps for the Cardinals, the Bears should be able to take him out of the game. Ideally, the Bears will bring pressure with just their front four, but if the defensive line isn’t getting the job done quickly enough, the Bears should bring extra pressure with the blitz to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and limit the opportunities down field for the wideouts.

4. Take care of the football

As previously mentioned, the Cardinals lead the NFL in interceptions with 22, one more than the Bears defense has. They also have 36 sacks, ranking them seventh in the league. These stats are a recipe for disaster and are really the only reason the Cardinals have won five games this year. The Bears offense is not good enough to overcome turnovers, especially on the road. They need to protect the football and end drives with points, even if it’s just three. Don’t give the Cardinals anymore help than they need.

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