Four Downs: Keys to beating the Cowboys (12/09/13)

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A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Dallas Cowboys.

1. Pursue and Tackle

Last week, the basic fundamental motto I gave as a key to victory was: “Alignment, Assignment, Attitude”, as in: if the Bears lined up properly, executed their assignments, and played with attitude, they would win. Well, they failed at that again and gave up a much-needed game to the Vikings. This week, we’re going with a fundamental again. Pursue and tackle. Julius Peppers had a terrific game against the Vikings. Besides his 2.5 sacks, he also was strong in run support, pursuing running back Adrian Peterson wherever he ran and getting in on so many plays down the field. That’s the kind of heart and relentlessness all 11 Bears defenders need to play with. It’s sad that we have to resort to fundamentals as a key to victory, but that’s where the Bears now stand.

2. Keep stringing out piece-by-piece drives

The Bears did a nice job against the Vikings of controlling the clock and tempo and it helped them get out to a 20-10 lead. After that, the Vikings scored 13 unanswered points as the Bears offense stalled. To win games, the Bears have to continue “playing keep away” and not letting the opposing offense get their hands on the ball. The Cowboys have some dangerous weapons on offense and are averaging 27.4 points per game — third-best in the NFL. To allow them to have excess time of possession would be trouble.

3. Finish drives with points

I like Josh McCown. He’s poised, he’s knowledgeable, he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, he knows his limitations and he’s got a great grasp of the offense and what the Bears are trying to do. With all that said, the Bears just aren’t scoring enough points with him under center. They’re sustaining drives and picking up chunks of yards, but they need to finish those drives with more points. With a bad defense, the offense has to step up a notch and get more points.

4. Contributions from all phases

What we’ve learned this year is that the Bears do not have enough strength in one phase to overcome huge deficiencies in others. In a complete reversal of fortune, the defense and special teams — staples of “Bear Football” during the Lovie Smith regime — have been very poor this year, whereas the offense — a struggling entity since the 80s — has been a Top 10 unit this year. Which means, there has been no overall improvement because the changes have canceled each other. To beat the Cowboys, this will take an overall team effort and contributions from the offense, defense and special teams — with a loud homefield advantage from the fourth phase of the crowd.

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