It's hard to believe, but following Monday night's game, the Bears will have completed exactly one half of their scheduled games for the season. It seems like only yesterday that we were looking forward to football and yet half of it will be in our rear-view mirror soon. So, what do the Bears need to do at Qualcomm Stadium to enter the second half with three wins instead of two?
Outscore the opponent would be the easy answer, except you Bears fans expect more from your writers than stupid drivel—you want answers but unfortunately, even John Fox and the rest of the coaching staff don't seem to have those answers.
Still, this is another winnable game on the schedule. If the Bears follow the formula within this article, they just might beat a San Diego team that, at 2-6, actually have a more dismal record than the Bears. But if not, well, it means they're that much closer to a better position in the draft.
The future is NOW for Langford
Yes, due to the unfortunate Matt Forte injury, it's Jeremy Langford time for the Bears. Although it's not officially known how long he will be out, it's apparent that Forte will miss at least this one game (if not more), so expect to see a healthy dose of Langford carrying the rock.
Langford has a lot to prove after being drafted in the fourth round. The ex-Spartan running back has carried the ball 27 times for a 80 yards and has also caught two balls for 31 yards this season. This is a critical test for Langford, and not just for this year. With Forte not expected to return after the season, Langford will get an opportunity to carry the torch if he does well.
He is a big-bodied back who should be in position to take advantage of a Chargers defense that has allowed more than 100 yards rushing in six consecutive contests. However, the Bears may miss Forte even more coming out of the backfield as a pass catcher.
Langford dropped a critical third down pass on the Bears' last possession of the game against the Vikings. so his ability to catch the ball is in question right now. Langford needs to answer that question in the affirmative for the Bears to win this game.
With Royal flushed, WRs need to step up
The Forte injury and its effect on the passing game naturally brings us to the second key to the game, which is finding a receiver other than Alshon Jeffrey for Jay Cutler to throw the ball to. With Eddie Royal (left knee) out, and teams double teaming Jeffrey, it would be nice to see someone other than the tight end catch a pass.
Marc Mariani filled in for Royal after the injury, but Marquess Wilson is the guy I'd like to see step up for Chicago on Monday.
Wilson has 18 receptions on the season but has yet to impress. This could be the week he finally does.
Defense needs to attack & limit YAC
With injuries piling up and changes along the offensive line, the Chargers rank 30th in the league in rushing yards per attempt, at 3.6. But that one dimension can be pretty good, so they need to get after QB Philip Rivers.
With the running game deferring to the passing game for San Diego, the Bears defense can pin its ears back and rush Rivers. Pernell McPhee, when feeling good, has been a solid pass rusher for the Bears, so he should be able to beat his man across the line.
They had better put pressure on Rivers, who is going to be 34 soon and is starting to show the affects of a lot of hits over the years. Rivers has been good this year despite the turmoil around him, with 18 TDs and completing almost 70 percent of his passes. He has eights touchdowns in his last three games.
But the Chargers have given up the most pressures of any team, and with the Bears pass defense ranking fourth, this can be a good matchup. But they need to limit the yards after the catch, which has been a key to the Chargers offensive success this season.
Rivers will be without his top receiver threat as Keenan Allen, third in the league in yards receiving, was placed on IR with a lacerated kidney. But TE Antonio Gates still presents a match-up nightmare for defenses and Rivers will look for him in the red zone, assuming his sore knee doesn't prevent him from being effective.
Cutler should pick apart weak Chargers secondary
Cutler should have a chance in Week 9 to pad his stats even more against a Chargers defense that is giving up 362.9 total yards per game this season and has allowed 14 passing touchdowns.
Jay has been playing pretty solid football for Chicago this season, making better decisions and thriving in Adam Gase's system. He didn't turn the ball over against Minnesota, only the sixth time that has happened since Lovie Smith was the Bears coach, as Chicago Tribune beat writer Rich Campbell points out.
Campbell also makes another interesting point in assessing Cutler's comfort with the pre-snap protection calls, made more critical due to injuries on the Bears offensive line.
The Bears should try and take advantage of an undersized Chargers defense, including two 5'9" corners, especially Brandon Flowers, who has been getting picked on by teams all year.
Special teams & Intangibles
Both teams have suffered from poor special teams play. The Bears have incurred a lack of execution and continuity from its ST but as bad as they have been, the Chargers may be even worse.
The Chargers punt return game has amounted to a grand total of one yard on the season! They have given the offense the worst field position after kickoffs in the league, so Rivers often starts with bad field possession.
Meanwhile, the team that executes in the fourth quarter may be the team that wins the game. The Bears largely don't get blown out, so the team that wants it more will win,it's that simple.