ACL’s Week 3 Matchup Preview: Rams@Bears
The Bears currently sit at 1-1 with a slew of winnable games coming up. They also unfortunately come into the game against the Rams with some potentially serious question marks. Will Mike Tice change his game plan if it isn’t working? Can he make adjustments and if so, will they be effective? Will Webb and the rest of the offensive line get their act together and block like we know they’re capable of? Will Cutler get frustrated and start forcing throws? Can Marshall, Jeffrey, Bennett, and the rest of the gang keep their composure on the field against Cortland Finnegan?
I think they can, and here’s why: Let’s go back to last year, week 5 against the Lions. Cutler ran for his life and the offensive line was beaten like rented mules by a very hungry Detroit defense. That game, and how well Cutler played considering he never had time in the pocket, was the catalyst for the rest of the season. (Obviously until Cutler was hurt in week 11 against the Chargers, but let’s not talk of that). Martz’ game plan for that Lions game was very pass-heavy, only running the ball 25 times while throwing it a whopping 38 times, 41 if you count the 3 sacks Cutler took. A very bad run/pass ratio, and it allowed the Lions’ D-line to ignore the run and crash the pocket repeatedly.
The following week, against the Vikings, the Bears had a much more balanced game plan, throwing the ball 31 times and running it 28 times, for an almost 50-50 run/pass split. Since the team was able to be balanced, it put the defensive line of the Vikings on their heels, and it showed, only 1 Jared Allen sack for a 9 yard loss. Here are the stats for the next 4 games:
Buccaneers game: 32 pass attempts, 33 rushes. Eagles game: 32 pass attempts, 34 rushes. Lions game: 20 pass attempts, 35 rushes. Chargers game: 32 pass attempts, 32 rush attempts. The run/pass ratio was much more reasonable, if you exclude the blowout win over the Lions in the rematch. It seems Martz finally figured it out, you can’t drop back to pass 35+ times with this Bears’ offensive line. Once Martz figured this out, the Bears averaged 32.2 points a game, gave up only 17 points per game, and the most telling stat: Cutler was only sacked 5 times during this 5 game winning streak.
Why do I bring this up when Martz is retired and Mike Tice is the OC now? Let’s take a look at the stats thus far this year. During the blowout win over the Colts, Tice maintained a nice even run/pass ratio, running it 33 times and passing it 35 times. Cutler was only sacked twice. During the Packers game debacle, Tice called a run play 23 times, and a passing play 34 times. Cutler had 27 official attempts, but was sacked an amazing 7 times for -52 yards. This play calling was nearing dangerously close to the dreaded 2:1 ratio, which works for other teams, but has NEVER worked for the Bears, ever, in their history.
One thing I anticipated during the Packers game was Tice making adjustments at half time. Unfortunately, it appears he did not. It could be theorized that he planned on using Forte to soften up the 2-deep zone, but with Forte going down early in the 3rd quarter, his chance to do that may have been taken away. However, that does not excuse the fact that the Bears did not run hardly any screens, slants, or quick-hitting routes to get the ball out of Cutler’s hands, and force the Packers defense to get out of that 2-deep zone they were playing.
I bring this up because the Rams have a very good, very underrated secondary. They are capable of blanketing the Bears wide receivers in coverage, so if Tice does not game plan properly, and doesn’t get the ball out of Cutler’s hands quickly, Cutler could be frustrated early and often by the Rams’ solid defensive line. The good news is, thus far this season the Rams have not been great at rushing the passer, only dropping QBs for 2 sacks thus far this season, while the Bears, surprisingly enough, have 8 sacks and are tied for second in the NFL in that category. The bad news, however, is that the Rams secondary is very good at intercepting passes, and are tied with the Bears for 6th in the NFL with 4 INTs.
Now that I’ve beaten you over the head with statistics, let’s get down to it. The Bears are quite capable of beating the Rams. In my opinion it will come down to one thing only: the offensive line limiting mistakes. In almost every facet of the game, this Bears team is better than the Rams. The only areas where the Rams have a slight advantage is in the secondary. If the Bears offensive line can give Cutler time to get rid of the ball, and Mike Tice keeps the game plan balanced, the Bears should win this one relatively easy.
If Michael Bush and Khalil Bell get the ball 25+ times rushing, and Cutler is sacked less than 3 times, the Bears should win. It really is as simple as that. The defense is playing very well, the running game, when properly utilized, has been very effective. Cutler has shown time and time again, that when the Bears have a balanced attack, he performs well. Let’s hope Tice has figured it out as well.
Final score: Bears 27, Rams 13