Four Downs: Keys to beating the Dolphins (10/19/14)

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A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Miami Dolphins.

1. Take the fight to the Dolphins

In every game, there are certain intangibles that cannot be predicted. Let’s be honest: no one thought the Bears were going to come out and play as physical and fast as they did against the Falcons this past week, especially not with all three starting linebackers out of the game with injuries. But alas, they played with a certain attitude and fighting instinct unmatched by the Falcons, that which left the Falcons receivers cowering and dropping passes. The Bears need that same kind of fighting spirit on the defensive side of the ball this week against Miami. Alignment, assignment, attitude. Those are the keys to playing successful defense. And while lining up correctly and executing your assignment are the primary objectives for defenders, they have to carry out those with attitude.

2. Collapse the pocket

It was good for the Bears defense to get Jeremiah Ratliff back in the lineup after he missed the previous couple games with concussion symptoms. Ratliff was off to a good start on the season before being knocked out of the lineup and his presence in the middle of the defensive line is a huge boost to the production of the defense. Pair Ratliff with Stephen Paea — who has four sacks this season, a career high for him, all in only six games — and the Bears have a formidable duo to cave in the middle of the opposing offensive line. And with Jared Allen and Willie Young — who has a career-high and league-leading 7 sacks — coming around the edge, good things will happen in pass defense.

3. Play smart on special teams

I’m convinced that part of the problem with the Bears’ woes on special teams this year lies between the ears. Yes, we all know by now that they have a different kick returner, punter, and long snapper, and that they lost special teams coordinator and guru Dave Toub two years ago. Not to mention, the philosophical switch from a defensive-oriented team to an offensive one means less depth on defense, which is typically the side of the ball that fields the most special teams players. But the Bears are also making dumb mistakes and committing dumb penalties. For starters, there’s no reason any kick returner on the Bears should take a kickoff out of the end zone — unless it’s only a yard or two deep. When they take the ball out from five or more yards into the end zone, they’re only getting to about the 15-yard-line — at best. Then, making matters worse, they commit a holding penalty and the ball gets moved backwards half the distance to the goal line and Jay Cutler and the offense have to start deep in their own end.

4. Protect the football

There’s no reason the Bears should lose this game. They are a better football team from top to bottom than the Dolphins. The Bears offense should put up at least 24 points, and the Bears defense has only allowed more than 24 points once in six games this year, courtesy of the Packers. (Yes, the Panthers scored more than 24, but the special teams accounted for 7 of those). The only way I see the Bears losing this game is by turning over the football … or by making costly penalties. Protect the football, execute assignments, win the game.

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