The Bears have one week to shore up the offensive side of the football before meeting with the AFC's best team and the NFL's best defense (in terms of yards per game) in the Houston Texans.
The importance of this Titans game should not go understated, though. Every game in this current span matters just as much as the last. The key for this game is to get a struggling offense back on track, and to hopefully gain some momentum heading into a Sunday night battle with the Texans.
Sure, part of me is looking past the Titans. In their last two meeting with weaker AFC south opponents, the Bears have proven their sheer dominance over that division, and nothing should really change down in Nashville.
The Bears need to find a formula that will consistently work for them on offense against a Titans team that has failed to slow anyone down on defense in 2012. The last couple of weeks, the Bears’ offense has gone through a very diverse set of play calling, and they haven't found any consistency along the way. It’s time they show some progress down in Nashville.
The Titans are a mess on defense, ranking near the bottom of almost every defensive category. Only two of their eight opponents have failed to reach 400+ yards in total offense against the Titans, and the teams that failed were right around 390 yards.
The Lions notched nearly 600 yards but fell short by 17. The Titans’ defense isn't just bad in one particular area either; they rank 29th in passing defense and 28th in run defense, which gives teams options on how to beat them.
The Titans also lack in sacks and turnovers. They fail to consistently get pressure on a quarterback and have only come up with eight forced turnovers this season. The onus is all on the Tennessee offense to score points. The defense can only hope to limit opposing offenses.
The Titans have average ends who have some pass rushing ability in Derrick Morgan, and Kamerion Wimbley. But the strength of the defense is on the back-end with veteran Jordan Babineaux and Jason McCourtey in the secondary. The middle of the field with the Titans’ linebackers is the weak spot, and a spot the Bears should be able to exploit in the running game.
Overall, it's a poor defense that aligns in a base 4-3. Knowing how the last couple games have gone, no matter the quality of the defensive line, expect a couple sacks on Cutler. The Bears have options, and a balanced attack should give them even more options as the game goes along.
Getting the Bears’ offense back on track
If you watched the first three quarters of the Panthers game you should be able to see the Bears tremendous need to get back a more consistent offense attack. Chicago was on the brink of 5-2, but found a way in the fourth quarter to win that game.
The offense adjusted its play calling, and the defense made the play we've become accustomed to seeing from them this season. The Bears got bailed out by Steve Smith not being able to finish his route, and the Panthers basically letting Marshall run 10 years before covering him on the last drive.
The Bears got lucky, and at times during a season you need a little luck. But playing against more talented teams, who know how to finish and win games, will force a different result. It's time to be able to move the ball down field, and pick up much needed third downs. And the Titans are the perfect team to help get this erratic offense back on track.
Balance . . . I keep hearing that word repeated inside my head. I heard it all the way up until the Jennings interception during last week's game too. The Bears opened last week's game with a heavy dose of Matt Forte, and at one point, Forte was averaging 11 yards per carry.
The Bears, after that drive, went away from Forte, and tried to take shots down field with long developing routes, and a lack of push from the offensive line led to turnovers and sacks. It killed the momentum the Bears had gained through running the ball, and it led to the Panthers playing in a soft box, daring Cutler to throw on them.
Disrupting Cutler is a term I've heard used by many different players and coaches. If you can get to Cutler and put him in tough situations on third and long, he's bound to make a mistake. The key to keeping Cutler in rhythm is run on running downs and putting him in position to deliver short, easy passes for reasonable gains.
The last drive against Carolina should explain it all; the Bears went to the slant over and over and on that drive and Cutler seemed to develop a rhythm. Extended run plays with blocking out in front will also help Cutler stay clean and let the Bears’ offensive line do what they do best, which is run block.
The Bears go straight into a two-week span vs. two of the most talented and ferocious defenses in the NFL. If the Bears want to extend this winning streak, the offense needs to be able to move the ball efficiently. The defense will always be stable, but they can't bail Cutler and Co. out every week. It's time for the offense to be as dominant as we envisioned coming into this season.