A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Oakland Raiders.
1. Get after Derek Carr
It’d be difficult to say that Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is the next big thing in the NFL because he does, in fact, play for the woeful Oakland franchise. But he’s truly talented and now has a weapon in rookie receiver Amari Cooper. The Bears defense showed some signs of improvement in the first half last Sunday against the Seahawks by bringing down quarterback Russell Wilson four times, two in the first half. Wilson also looked uncomfortable in the pocket in the first half, and by no coincidence, the Bears were in the game through two quarters. Carr has been sacked just once this season in 90 passing attempts, so he doesn’t go down easily. The Bears need to make him uncomfortable with constant pressure and not let him get into a rhythm.
2. Ride Matt Forte until the wheels fall off
Following last week’s second-half collapse and their third loss in as many weeks, the Bears jettisoned Jared Allen, Jon Bostic, and Brock Vereen. Many wondered what other players could be shipped off next, and whether it would make sense to trade Matt Forte. I don’t see any scenario in which the Bears would bring Forte back after his contract expires at the end of this season. If the Bears choose not to trade him, they might as well get their money’s worth and utilize arguably the NFL’s most versatile back. I would run Forte 25 times a game and throw to him 5-10 times more. And if he needs a breather, bring in his heir apparent, rookie Jeremy Langford. Let the Raiders know that the Bears intend to dictate the tempo of the game and stick to it.
3. Play physical with Amari Cooper
Cooper is one of the bright spots of a Raiders team that seems stuck in perpetual rebuilding mode. He’s an explosive young receiver who can make defenses pay by taking the top off them. The Bears struggled a couple weeks ago against a Cardinals receiving corps that got past them several times, and it was a performance that led to cornerback Kyle Fuller getting benched. The reason? Among others, it was because Fuller was playing up near the line of scrimmage and allowing Cardinals receivers a free release off the line. As a result, he couldn’t keep up with their speed and got burned several times. The same thing can happen with Cooper, so the Bears cornerbacks need to jam him at the line and break up the timing between Cooper and Carr.
4. Shore up special teams play
The Bears have allowed two kickoff returns for touchdowns in consecutive weeks, and it is one of a few reasons why they let Bostic and Vereen go this week. The Bears signed safety Chris Prosinski and linebacker LaRoy Reynolds as reinforcements to shore up the special teams coverage. It’s difficult enough for the Bears to move the ball on offense with Jimmy Clausen calling signals, they don’t need to be starting off with bad field position on either side of the ball.