Saturday, September 18, 2010
Grudge Match: Bears-Cowboys
By Bryan Broaddus
Cowboys offensive line vs. Bears front seven: In my view, this is where the game will be won or lost. If the Cowboys are able to control the Bears' front seven, they will take this football game. But if they struggle with the movement of the defensive line and the aggressiveness of the linebackers, then they are in for a real fight.
Last week against the Lions, Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli were aggressive. Was this game plan trying to put more pressure on second-year starter Mathew Stafford, or was this just Bears football for 2010?
Smith and Marinelli have a decision to make Sunday. Do they blitz Tony Romo and allow the secondary to play in coverage, or do they allow just their front four to supply the pressure?
The Bears like to slant their front and get their players on the move. They don't want to stand in there and fight you toe to toe. The type of defenders that give Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode the most problems are those who are on the move. They struggle with quick defenders who can attack the edges. The type that will rush you down the middle are the guys that Davis and Gurode can handle all day.
The longer that Gurode and Davis have to sustain their blocks, the harder it is to move their feet and stay in front of the defender. The Bears have two guys like this in Anthony Adams and Tommie Harris. Adams and Harris like to get up the field. They like to try and put pressure on you right away.
You can take advantage of this front in the running game if you manage to catch them on the slant or in movement and take the ball behind it. The Bears can make you look bad if you do not adjust to secure the blocks.
Cowboys linebackers vs, Matt Forte: Against the Lions last week, Forte made two huge plays out of the backfield in the passing game. Those plays were the difference in the Bears' win.
Forte has deceptive speed and his running style is that of a slasher. He was timed in 4.44 at Tulane. He has a burst in the open field and he shows the ability to separate from defenders.
The Cowboys' linebackers must have good technique and be responsibly sound in coverage. A step late in coverage could result in a huge play.
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz likes to run his receivers down the field to clear defenders, then run the back out of the backfield on the swing. On the game-winning touchdown, Martz had Forte swing out of the backfield going left up the sideline, resulting in a beautiful, adjusting catch.
Where the Cowboys have to be alert is if Martz decides he wants to use Forte on screens to try to slow this Cowboys rush down. Keith Brooking and Anthony Spencer are the best cover linebackers -- with Bradie James showing improvement in training camp.
I don't believe that the Bears will physically be able to move the ball on the ground because of their offensive line, so where the defense has to be sound is in not allowing Forte to make big plays in the passing game.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler vs. Cowboys pass rushers: Jay Cutler led the NFL with 26 interceptions last season. One of the biggest problems that Cutler faces is his poor ball security.
There were several plays against the Lions where he felt pressure and for no reason at all flung the ball down the field without direction or regard for what might happen. With Cutler, it doesn't matter -- in the field of play or in the red zone, he is prone to mistakes.
When he feels pressure, he is at his worst. To him, a play is never dead, and instead of taking the sack and live to fight another play, he compounds the situation.
I really see the Bears struggling to block this Cowboys front. DeMarcus Ware and Spencer can create pressure from the outside on tackles Chris Williams and Frank Omiyale, who will struggle with their power and speed. Jay Ratliff will be solid against center Olin Kreutz, who is a fighter but not much else. Kruetz gets by on more guts than anything else.
If the Cowboys can control the running game of the Bears, play solid on the outside against these speedy receivers and not allow Cutler to feel comfortable, there is a good chance for turnovers because this quarterback will be careless. Pressure will lead to mistakes; it is his history.