A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
1. Slow down Doug Martin
Buccaneers running back Doug Martin is making a play to be the NFL’s leading rusher. He is currently second on the list, only nine yards short of Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson. The Buccaneers don’t need any more incentive to incorporate the run into their game plan, but you can bet they’d like to reward Martin with that honor anyway. The Bears have really struggled in stopping the run this season and could be in for a long day. They need sound gap discipline and have to be sure to wrap up and gang tackle.
2. Keep the Buccaneers defense guessing
Tampa Bay has a strong young defense, ranked 11th overall in the league. They are ninth in the NFL in run defense, allowing less than 95 yards per game on the ground. Unfortunately, that’s what the Bears do best and what they’ll have to rely upon. If the Bears take to the air, they’ll likely be without wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who is listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase will have to get creative with the play calling and mix in a healthy dose of both the run and the pass to keep the Bucs’ aggressive defense off-guard.
3. Bracket Mike Evans
Mike Evans is one of the best young wide receivers in the league and he’s a tough matchup due to his combination of size and speed. Evans has been building a rapport with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston and is currently 13th in the NFL in receiving yards. Last week against the Rams, Evans caught nine passes for a whopping 157 yards. It might be wise for the Bears to use bracket coverage on Evans to prevent the long ball and limit what the Buccaneers can do underneath and over the middle. Even through all the Bears’ recent struggles, they still remain the third-ranked pass defense.
4. Win the time of possession
The Buccaneers are not exactly the most potent offense in the NFL, especially given their propensity to run the ball. If the Bears control the clock and dominate the time of possession, they will significantly decrease the Buccaneers’ chances of putting up points on the board. Furthermore, if the Bears can jump out to an early lead and leave Tampa Bay with much less time, suddenly Martin is taken out of the game and the Buccaneers will have to deviate from their game plan.