The Bears face an opponent in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that is gaining ground in the power ranking amongst the NFL’s best (3-1 record) and as winners of their last three games, they sit atop the NFC South. The Bears, also 3-1, have been able to claw their way to three come-from-behind victories behind strong 4th quarters from their defense as well as clutch performances in those games from Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. However, the streak has come to a halt after their first loss of the season against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts entered the game as the number two team in the NFL in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. DVOA, is a measuring tool that seeks to combine every play, opponent, and metric into a single stat that can gauge the true measure of a defense’s ability. The Bears fell flat against this defense and made many people, from fans to pundits, wonder if the Bears wins felt like a streak of “luck” rather than those of a good team.
Unfortunately, things don’t get any better for the Bears in this short week as they take on the team who entered into the previous week as the number one team in DVOA, the Buccaneers.
In knowing those key statistics, what can the Bears do to secure a big win tonight versus the Buccaneers and ease some of the pressure and chatter they’ve been met with? Let’s take a look at the three biggest keys to victory we should be keeping our eyes on in tonight’s game. If the Bears: Dominate the line of scrimmage, adapt the play design to fit the schemes they are presented with, ensure that Nick Foles progresses in this offense/manage the offensive tempo to a more urgent state, they should find themselves back in the win column in Week 5.
Dominate the line of scrimmage
The line of scrimmage is where everything in this game starts, literally. When you lose that battle, expect the game to be lost as well. The Bears struggled against the offensive line of the Colts, facing immediate pushback and struggling to clog gaps. This allowed the Colts run game to flourish and kept a comfortable pocket for Philip Rivers. If the Bears cannot find a way to dial up the pressure, either through blitzing or personnel adjustments, expect more of the same. With dominating the line of scrimmage, there needs to be changes within the design of the plays.
Adapt the play design to fit the schemes they are presented with
Let me take you back to the last game. Its 3rd and 1, the Bears are poised to strike on offense and insert dangerous return man Cordarelle Patterson at running back. Darnell Mooney and Anthony Miller are both motioned in what appears to be an attempt to disrupt the heavily stacked box of the Colts. The play ends with a loss of yards and a 3 and out. What do you have to blame there? Certainly, it is personnel decisions, but also, it’s play design. Facing a 3rd and 1 should be a signal to send your best back out there to bruise their way for a 1st. When you fail to do that, you fail to adjust your schemes to fit the present situation. If the Bears enter into the game, not with a script of plays that they stick to but adjust later, but with an offense that sticks to what works, adjust to the formations of the defense, they will find themselves in a much better position than last week.
Nick Foles and the offensive tempo
Nick Foles is only on his 2nd start with the Bears and with that gives room for genuine excuses to be made for a lackluster performance against the Colts. As time goes on, however, nd if he continues to be huff, the excuses become less valid and the microscope of blame starts to shine his way. Look for the signs of progression from Nick Foles in this game; cleaner throws, better pocket awareness, awareness of the defenses personnel/making adjustments pre-snap, and finding receivers when they are open, not just when the play breaks down. When Nick Foles does this, he helps his team gain a sense of urgency with every play. Not that they attempt to score as quickly as they can but that they understand that every drive is precious and must be earned. If these adjustments are made, I find it hard to see the Bears walking away with anything but a W.