By: Steve Balestrieri
The Patriots will need a big game from Darrelle Revis to slow down the Bears offense on Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)
The New England Patriots take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday at 1p.m. in Foxboro. The game will be televised by Fox with Sam Rosen and John Lynch on the call. For New England, they’ll be facing an opponent with a diverse attack on offense and with a defense that is very good at rushing the passer.
Looking back at a couple of the Bears’ recent games on the NFL Game Rewind All-22 film, we’ve picked out a couple of plays that show how the Bears offense can hurt an opposing defense and a few that show where the Patriots should attack when they have the ball.
First the Bears’ offense, the guy that is arguably the most dangerous is RB Matt Forte. Forte has nearly 450 yards rushing and leads the NFL in receptions with 52; he’s capable of turning a two-yard pass into a 70 yard one and taking it to the house.
Against the Dolphins in the red-zone at the nine yard line, QB Jay Cutler lined up in the shotgun with Forte to his left. At the snap, Forte appears to stay in to pass block and just slides past the defensive end into the flat all alone on the left side.
All of the Bears receivers pull coverage away from Forte, who was lost by the linebackers. Cutler flips an easy pass to Forte who scores easily. The Miami linebackers failed to keep track of Forte, something the Patriots should note. They may provide a linebacker to “spy” Forte wherever he goes on the field.
Against the Carolina Panthers, the Bears came out with their wide receivers spread wide. The Panthers were playing tight, press man coverage with 10 men in the box and only one deep safety. Recognizing single coverage with no safety help, Cutler immediately knew he was going to WR Alshon Jeffrey who was split wide to the right.
Jeffrey ran straight down the sideline and Cutler just flipped a pass about 25 yards in the air and hit Jeffrey with pin-point accuracy. He put the ball up high where only Jeffrey could get it and he made a superb leaping one-handed grab for a gain of 31 yards.
New England’s corners will be tested in this one and even when they have tight coverage, they will still be hard-pressed to make a play. The key will be to play tight and not allow the big Bears’ receivers a free release.
On defense, the most obvious place for the Patriots to attack is the middle of the field. The Bears’ LBs and safeties are banged up and as of the Friday injury report both Lance Briggs and Jonathan Bostic are doubtful to play on Sunday.
Opponents have been targeting the Bears LBs and this is an area where Rob Gronkowski could be in-line for a huge game. Gronkowski possesses a unique ability to stretch the defense in the passing game and be a devastating blocker in the running game. The Patriots may use a lot of 2-TE sets on Sunday with Gronkowski and Tim Wright trying to work the middle of the field.
Having Gronkowski line up in-line and then take on a linebacker is something some of the Bears’ most recent opponents have down quite well recently.
The Panthers had the ball on the Bears’ nine-yard line and TE Greg Olsen lined up to the right side of the formation. QB Cam Newton was in the shotgun and at the snap the Bears were in good shape with two linebackers covering the middle.
Later in the same game, the Bears were in zone-coverage and Olsen who lined up on the left side ran a post, perfectly splitting the linebackers and under the safety help over the top and had a big 19 yard catch, finally being brought down around the Bears 40.
Against Miami, the Dolphins had the ball on 13 yard line, the Bears were in a one-deep safety look, playing softer coverage. Miami was in a 2-WR/2-TE (12 pers) set with TE Charles Clay lined up in-line to the left of Ryan Tannehill who was in the shotgun. TE Dion Sims was split to the right.
At the snap, Clay ran a corner route and was wide open beating the Bears’ LBs in coverage. Tannehill hit Clay for the touchdown pass as WR Mike Wallace pulled his coverage deep and to the middle of the field.
Also against the Bears, Clay lined up to the left side of the formation and ran a deep slant towards the right sideline in single coverage on a linebacker. An obvious mismatch, Tannehill hit Clay for a 25 yard gain.
The keys for the Patriots will be to get QB Tom Brady the time to throw and recognizing the mismatches that Gronkowski creates and hit him with accuracy to create yards after catch. Once the Bears bring more help to the linebackers for Gronk, it will create single coverage elsewhere and the Bears CBs are also hurting. Peanut Tillman is out for the season and rookie Kyle Fuller is expected to play although he has a hip injury as well as a broken hand.
It doesn’t guarantee victory, but if they are able to take advantage of these mismatches and slow down the Bears offense, it should go a long way to having a successful day on Sunday against a talented team.
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