The Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will meet in a battle between two first-place teams in Week 4 Sunday at Soldier Field. The two teams have faced each other in each of the last four seasons, splitting the matchups with two wins apiece.
Tampa Bay has featured one of the league’s best offenses with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick starting and the Bears feature one of the best defenses with linebacker Khalil Mack and a really good front seven and secondary. On Sunday something will have to give and here are five things the Bears will need to do to be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Defensive wizardry will be needed to stop “Fitz magic”
Ryan Fitzpatrick has passed for over 400 yards in each of his first three games as he has one of the best wide receiver trios to throw to. The Buccaneers feature Mike Evans, Desean Jackson, and emerging star Chris Godwin. Both Jackson and Evans are averaging 100 yards receiving through the first three games. It will be up to Bears secondary to break this trend, which will be hard without starting cornerback Prince Amukamara.
Chicago’s secondary will likely see Bryce Callahan move to the outside and rookie Kevin Tolliver playing significant minutes. If Tolliver struggles, it could be a very long day back there for the Bears.
Getting pressure on Fitzpatrick could help slow down this passing game.
Leonard Floyd will need to be Robin to Khalil Mack’s Batman
When the Bears acquired Khalil Mack via trade, many believed that the person who would benefit the most from his presence on the field would be fellow linebacker Leonard Floyd. Before the trade, Floyd was seen as the team’s best pass rusher, but through three games he has yet to register a sack.
One reason why might be because of the cast he has had to wear since breaking his hand against Denver in the pre-season.
Against Tampa Bay, The Bears will need Floyd’s speed to get home early on Fitzpatrick as Tampa Bay loves to throw the deep ball off of seven-step drops.
Do not get into a shootout with Tampa Bay’s Offense
One thing the Bears cannot do is to try to match the Buccaneers score for score. Last week against Arizona, the Bears held the ball for over 36 minutes on offense. If they are able to finish off their drives with touchdowns while eating up the clock, it will limit the ability for Tampa Bay’s offense to function as they do.
They have scored a touchdown in the first quarter of each of their first three games and because of that, they have forced the opposing teams to throw to play catchup. The one way the Bears can avoid a shootout is scoring early and holding onto the ball often.
Use Jordan Howard to set up the play action
With the struggles of Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback, Matt Nagy could lean on running back Jordan Howard to help open up the passing game. A lot of Howards rushes have come from the shotgun formation the last two games.
Even though the Bears offense has used play action while in the shotgun, it doesn’t have the same element of surprise as if Trubisky were under center. Running play actions from under center could freeze Tampa Bay’s linebackers and secondary just enough for the Bears quarterback to hit his targets over the middle on intermediate routes.
It could help get Trubisky into a groove against the second to worse defense in the NFL.K
Let Trubisky throw deep
One of the biggest issues with Trubisky this season has been his inconsistent accuracy when throwing deep. Against Seattle and Arizona, Trubisky had deep targets open downfield on several occasions only for the pass to be incomplete. Taylor Gabriel has been one of those targets, but the second year quarterback had not worked with Gabriel at all during the pre-season.
In his limited time in the pre-season, there were two-time Trubisky threw deep and both targets were to Kevin White. Due to Anthony Miller’s injury, both Joshua Bellamy and Kevin White could see more playing time on Sunday, Trubisky’s longest touchdown of his career was to Bellamy against Green Bay last season.
It the Bears throw deep on Sunday Bellamy and White could the targets as they have somewhat of a history with Trubisky and it could lead to big gains.