Four Downs: Keys to beating the Rams (11/24/13)November 22nd, 2013 - 10:42 am
A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the St. Louis Rams.
1. Force Clemens to beat you
When the Bears and Rams face off on Sunday, it’ll be a battle of the backup quarterbacks. In that position alone, the Bears should have a big edge as Josh McCown is a better player — particularly with Marc Trestman’s help — than Rams backup Kellen Clemens. In just four games this season, Clemens has thrown two interceptions, fumbled five times, and has been sacked nine times. By comparison, in McCown’s four games, he’s thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions, has been sacked five times but has no fumbles. He has a 100 passer rating. Knowing how bad the Bears’ run defense has been this year, expect the Rams to utilize running back Zac Stacy a great deal. Stacy averages 4.2 yards per carry and he’s really excelled since taking full control of the starting duty. If the Bears can neutralize him to some extent, they’ll force Clemens to have to beat them and I don’t see that happening.
2. Protect the edges
The Rams have, collectively, one of the best front fours the Bears have faced this season, particularly on the edges. Defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn bring the heat on the outside. Quinn leads the team with 12 sacks and Long has added 6.5. It’ll be a challenging game for Bears offensive tackles Jermon Bushrod and rookie Jordan Mills keeping those two in check, with the possibility that guard Kyle Long sees some action blocking his brother Chris. The key behind the Bears protection scheme is strength up the middle so that the quarterback can step up in the pocket and make throws, so as long as the Bears can do that, I trust McCown to be able to move around the pocket and avoid the rush from the outside.
3. Stay over the top on Austin
Rams rookie receiver Tavon Austin had a breakout game in a Week 10 rout of the Colts, racking up 138 receiving yards, a 57-yard receiving touchdown, an 81-yard receiving touchdown, and a 98-yard punt return touchdown. Austin has dangerous speed and the Bears secondary has been thinned out by injuries. The safeties need to stay deep to keep Austin in front of them, but that would leaves big gaps in their run defense. Another area of concern is that the Bears special teams have been a bit shaky this year, which leaves open the possibility of big, game-changing kick returns from Austin.
4. Utilize Forte’s quickness on turf
Matt Forte is destined for a huge game on Sunday if the Bears utilize him correctly. Forte has good quickness and versatility and the Bears offense can use him in both the run and passing games. The Rams are 18th in the league defending the run. On the Rams’ fast-track turf, Forte could break off some big runs if given a small seam. What is working to Forte’s advantage is that the Bears’ receivers are arguably the best in the league at blocking. Using their big bodies, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have the will to be good at their craft and have allowed Forte to extend his runs farther down the field. Forte will also come up big in the passing game, and his success will allow the Bears to control the clock and the tempo.