Against the Offense
The story in San Diego is the season-long slump that Philip Rivers is currently in. This year Rivers has compiled 15 interceptions and eight fumbles (four of them lost). No doubt that Rivers’ decision-making has been horrendous so far this season, attempting way too many throws into double coverage.
With all that said, Rivers is still arguably an elite QB who is capable of shredding any defense on the field. The weapons are still there with WR Vincent Jackson, TE Antonio Gates, RBs Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert, and Rookie WR Vincent Brown who has come on the last couple games.
The Bears can counteract those weapons by taking advantage of an injury stricken offensive line (don’t the Bears have that, too?). The Chargers’ starting offensive guards Tyronne Green and Louis Vasquez are doubtful for the game this Sunday while LT Marcus McNeill have been ruled out.
San Diego could be entering this game with four of their starting five out. The Bears’ defensive line cannot allow Rivers enough time to go through his progression.
Chicago’s defense puts a big emphasis on stopping the run first, so they can make opposing offenses one dimensional. The Chargers have a nice dual attack with Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert. Matthews provides San Diego with speed and quickness out the backfield, while Tolbert is more of a power back with the ability to also contribute in the passing game.
The Bears’ secondary is catching a little break with Malcolm Floyd ruled out for this Sunday’s game, but they still have to deal with Jackson and Gates. I expect the Bears to shadow Jackson with Charles Tillman, whom is really having a pro bowl caliber season.
The intriguing match-up might be Tim Jennings vs. Vincent Brown. Jennings has been solid so far this season, while Brown has come on strong the past couple games in the absence of Floyd. The Bears have been running a lot of single high (Cover-1) coverage the past two games.
I expect to see a little more Cover-2 in this game seeing how the Raiders were successful with it against the Chargers last week. I can see the Bears back seven dropping back in zone Cover-2 and trying to force Rivers into some mistakes.
Against the Defense
The Bears did not have the best performance in the world last week against the Lions’ defense, but with your defense and special teams scoring more than half your points, you can understand why the offense was a bit more conservative.
Against a Chargers’ offense that is extremely capable of putting up points, Jay Cutler and the Bears’ offense need to be ready to put up points on their own.
It all starts with the run and the Bears get a boost with Luis Castillo ruled out for Sunday. The Chargers rank 24th against the Rush, allowing 127.9 yards per game. So expect the line, even with Edwin Williams filling in for Chris Williams who is lost for the season with a wrist injury, to focus on getting push in the ground game.
The Bears will need to adjust to linebackers shooting the gap whenever they are pulling their interior linemen to block outside. Detroit LBs effectively shot the gaps and made plays on Matt Forte in the backfield; the Chargers LBs are capable of doing the same led by Inside Linebacker Takeo Spikes.
If the Bears want to make an impact on the ground, it starts with taking care of the Chargers 5-techniques Corey Liuget, Vaughn Martin and NT Antonio Garay. If the Bears can push them off the line of scrimmage while also get to the second level against the LBs, Forte and Barber should be able to have a solid day on the ground.
The OL will get the benefit of not dealing with the Chargers’ best pass rusher in Shaun Phillips who is out with a foot injury.
The Chargers rank eighth in the league against the pass but have been inconsistent at times this season. They have played musical chairs with the second starting CB spot because of the recent struggles of rookie Marcus Gilchrist.
Quentin Jammer has been a solid veteran for a long time including this season, and Eric Weddle has been a ball-hawk at the FS position. Big plays are going to be tough to come by against the San Diego secondary, so the WRs have to take advantage of opportunities when they are there.
The Bears are going to need Forte to attack a weak spot in the Chargers’ pass defense which is their LBs. The screen game could be effective against over-pursuing 3-4 LBs.