Four Downs: Keys to beating the Redskins (10/20/13)

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A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Washington Redskins.

Bears need to keep Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in the pocket.
Bears need to keep Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in the pocket.

1. Keep Robert Griffin III in the pocket

It’s been a long road back to the field for Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who suffered ACL and LCL injuries in his rookie season. Questions surrounded whether the Redskins brought him back too soon as both he and the team got off to a slow start this year. But the Bears acknowledged this week that he’s starting to come around and look like the RG3 of old. The last thing the Bears want to do is allow him to get into a comfort zone because he’s a dangerous threat when comfortable. Griffin is not a pure pocket passer and he’s more dangerous when he’s on the move. The Bears have not had a good pass rush this season, but you don’t need a good pass rush to keep a quarterback in the pocket. You just have to be disciplined and gap-sound.

2. Keep pounding the rock

For whatever reason, the Bears just haven’t been able to — consistently — run block as well as they should this season. Matt Forte has a nice rushing average (4.4) and he currently ranks 7th in the NFL in total rushing yards, but he’s also broken off a few big runs. The Redskins defense ranks 27th against the run. This is a good opportunity — on the road — for the Bears to control the clock and keep attempting to run the ball. Even if the Bears aren’t picking up good yardage on their carries, they need to keep pounding the ball on the ground. Sometimes, rushing attempts are good enough to get the job done because they keep the defense honest and open up other things in the passing game. When you’re on the road, it’s good to control the clock.

3. Get creative on the quarterback pressures

The Bears just haven’t been able to rush the passer this year. Call it old age for Julius Peppers, lack of strength and separation for Shea McClellin, or season-ending injuries at defensive tackle. Call it whatever you want, but it hasn’t been good enough and is a big problem right now. I’m no defensive coordinator, but I know Mel Tucker has to try to get creative with his blitz packages and give RG3 and the ‘Skins offense some different looks. Unless something magically just cracks and the defensive line starts generating pressure, it’s going to have to come from blitzes. The negative drawback to blitzing, of course, is that it puts added pressure on the Bears’ secondary to maintain coverage, and that’s been a problem this year for them, too.

4. Win the field position/turnover battle

Road games are always tough in the NFL no matter where you play — well, unless you’re playing the Jaguars. The Redskins may be 1-4 this season but they’re not to be taken lightly. The Bears need to take care of the ball and not cough it up. And they need to play the battle of field position well, which means all eyes will be on how Adam Podlesh punts the ball, how deep Robbie Gould’s kickoffs are — which was a problem last week against the Giants — and additionally how well Devin Hester returns punts and kickoffs. Marc Trestman’s Bears are certainly more aggressive when it comes to attempting to convert fourth downs, but on the road it’s probably best to be a little more conservative and try to pin the Redskins deep and make them work the full length of the field.

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