This week’s Monday night game is going to present both Chicago and Dallas with some unique challenges.
The most obvious one to me on a tactical level has to be the size of the Bears’ duo of Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery. While the Cowboys have the best corners in the NFL, the tallest one they have is Brandon Carr at six feet flat with the others an inch or two shorter. QB Jay Cutler is going to have to be on his game to take full advantage. Otherwise, it will be a long night for the Bears.
Bears RB Matt Forte is returning from a sprained ankle and if it isn’t completely healed, his effectiveness might be reduced. Perhaps look to see how much of the workload Michael Bush carries and that should clue us in to Forte’s health. Forte is officially listed as questionable.
The offensive line is what has been the issue for Chicago for the past few seasons now. They’ve neglected the interior especially in the draft and it seems to have caught up to them. Cutler takes more than his share of hits, he’s never taken particularly good care of the football, and now he’s facing a good pass rush and the league’s best corners.
When Chicago has the ball
A smart gameplan would be to establish the run using both Bush and Forte, keeping both fresh and especially so as not to put a lot of strain on Forte’s ankle. if they can do that, and it’s a big “if,” then they can work off play action while using flares and screens to help slow down the likes of DeMarcus Ware. A Rob Ryan defense is never, ever a pushover. I’m looking for the running game and short, 3- and 5- step drops, and get the ball out in the early going. Lots of slants on the inside to their two big targets…Marshall is 6’3″ but plays more like 6’6″ while Alshon Jeffery is a solid 6’5″. Marshall will probably be doubled all night in man coverage while forcing the rookie to move the chains and/or force Cutler to target the TEs or Earl Bennett or even Devin Hester more often. Bennett is listed on the injury report as questionable with a hand injury – never good for a receiver. The Cowbows have several DTs on the injury report and while Jay Ratliff, Sean Sizemore and Marcus Spears are listed as probably, Kenyon Coleman is out.
If the Bears want their ground game to get going with the problems they’ve got on the interior OL, this would seem to be the game to test their ability to do just that. The ‘boys should be weaker on that line than usual with all the slowed/injured players and running the ball is obviously the best way to neutralize a strong cornerback group.
When Dallas has the ball
The Bears have their own pair of pretty good corners led by Tim Jennings who already has 4 INTs in 3 games. Charles Tillman holds down the other side. Their two best defenders, MLB Brian Urlacher and DE Julius Peppers, both have injuries and haven’t participated in practice. Since they’re both veterans north of 30 years of age, this in itself doesn’t necessarily mean anything. They could just be being rested for the MNF game. However, the Cowboys have their own issues on the interior OL and are very similar to DAAAA Bearssss in this respect. DeMarco Murray should have to work hard for his yards tonight and I don’t expect Tony Romo to have one of his explosive games tonight.
WR Miles Austin is slowed by a bothersome hamstring and those types of injuries tend to linger. I think tonight could be another evening where Kevin Ogletree sees a lot of targets with Dez Bryant continuing to play inconsistent football. Bryant has yet to become a precise route-runner which limits his effectiveness despite his athletic gifts.
I think the two teams are awfully similar in more ways than not, and to oversimplify things, the Bears need to control the clock to have a good chance to win tonight. Failing that, their defense will be on the field too long and the Cowboys have a healthier backfield than do the Bears. C Phil Costa is out, so the Cowboys may have to get a little creative establishing the inside run.
I’m looking for Dallas to try a few deep plays early in order to help loosen the middle of that Bears defense and improve their chances in getting the running game untracked.
What’s the final word?
The Bears run a West Coast-style offense as it is, so they’re going to continue to follow that gameplan. The Cowboys will stretch the field more, with modest success, and neither Cutler nor Romo should have career evenings. I think Cutler’s propensity for throwing picks mixed with the high level of talent in the Dallas secondary along with problems handling the rush gives the Cowboys a comfortable win in a physical ball game.
Dallas 27, Chicago 10