A win is a win is a win. That’s what the Bears will tell you about their 19-14 survival against the Lions. It doesn’t matter that they got the aid of an obscure rule to secure the victory. They’re 1-0 heading into the Dallas game. Strangely after the NFL’s first week, you’d probably rather be the Bears than the Cowboys. Dallas’ high powered offense was shut down and embarrassed by the Redskins. Dallas had questionable coaching decisions in their loss that leave you wondering if they’re a Super Bowl contender or another over-hyped Cowboys team. How will it play out when these two teams collide? Here’s what I think…
Cowboys Offense vs. Bears Defense
-Last week, Julius Peppers showed how valuable he can be. Give him a game ball for knocking out Matthew Stafford. It may have been the play that won the game. Against the Cowboys, expect Peppers to move around to find advantageous matchups. The Cowboys offensive line is in flux (and that’s being polite). Marc Colombo will be back and that should help because Alex Barron had 3 holding penalties in the game. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but that is a record since 2008 for one player in one game. There may be some Bears fans who wish they still had Colombo, but his injury problems persist in a Cowboys uniform.
Remember when Jason Garrett was the soup de jour of offensive minds in the NFL? Well, that isn’t the case anymore. The Cowboys averaged almost 5 yards a carry against Washington, but for some reason only ran the ball 21 times. Against the Redskins their high powered pass game was horizontal. They didn’t take advantage of talented pass-cathcers like: Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant. Austin had great numbers (10 catches 146 yards and 1 TD), but there were more plays out there for him to make. Last week, the Bears did a nice job stopping the run. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs were all over the place, making plays and forcing turnovers. That was a tad bit easier because for more than half the football game they were going against the ghost of Shaun Hill. That’s not the case on Sunday.
Lovie Smith made a very astute point about Tony Romo this week, saying that Romo doesn’t scramble to run. While he’s very athletic, he isn’t looking to tuck the ball. Romo is so affective because he moves his feet to buy time. His head is always looking down field and that could be an issue for the Bears. Romo is slippery and he wants to make the big play. It’s a blessing and a curse. Can the Bears defense take advantage of the pressure already mounting on Dallas’ offense to make plays? Expect to see Major Wright more than what you saw last week. And expect him to be picked on. Shhh…I’ll tell you a secret: Danieal Manning played a solid game last week at SS.
Bears Offense vs Cowboys Defense
-”We’re coming after Cutler.” -DeMarcus Ware.
You can’t blame the Cowboys defense for the loss last week. They played tough and got after Donavon McNabb. It didn’t show in sacks, but it did in pressures and decision-making by Mount Carmel’s finest. The way they attack the quarterback is scary good. Nose Tackle, Jay Ratliff is going to be a problem for Olin Kreutz, Lance Louis and Roberto Garza. The Cowboys run a 3-4, so the Bears are going to have to be aware of where the fourth rusher is coming from. Usually, that will be Ware. He’s a monster! The Bears will probably slide line protection to his side and I imagine they will have a TE be accountable for him on every play. Hopefully, Brandon Manumaleuna will show up to the walk through this week…cause I wasn’t overly impressed with his blocking last week. Perhaps that $22,000 fine will improve his focus.
I walked away pretty satisfied with what Cutler and crew did last week. You saw all the things that make people believe in Jay. He showed a big arm, mobility and nice touch on some passes that should have been caught. I’m looking at you Devin Aromashadu…
You saw Mike Martz incorporate the ‘backs into the pass game. Matt Forte and Chester Taylor were targeted 11 times and made 10 catches for 195 yards with 2 touchdowns. Forte is a nightmare for linebackers in coverage. Look for the Bears to try and exploit that. Also don’t discount all the screens that you saw. It’s the perfect weapon against an aggressive defense like Dallas. It’s also a help for a offensive line that still struggles with protection.
Devin Hester didn’t get open last week. That’s why he was only targeted 1 time. For all the speed that Hester possesses, he still has trouble getting off a jam. Watch for the Cowboys to be very physical with Bears receivers, especially Hester. They’ll try to re-route them to throw off the precision of what Martz wants to do.
-The Cowboys aren’t overly impressive in this department. The Bears can be. Watching Devin Hester return punts lately has been frustrating. Teams have rendered him useless by angle kicking and trying to pen him to the sidelines. Hester seems hesitant in his returns and ends up juking east-west instead of getting up the field. Beware of punter Matt McBriar. He had 3 punts inside the 20 last week, which sets up perfectly for the Dallas defense.
-There was a lot of good that came out of the Bears win last week. The offense had some crisp moments. Urlacher’s play reminded us that he can be a dominant force in the middle of the Bears defense. There was also some bad. Lovie Smith’s decision to “not take the lead”, as Brian Billick said on the Score earlier this week, was bizarre and reckless. Using Matt Forte on the goal line continues to be fruitless. According to Footballoutsiders.com, his inability to score from the 1 yard line 4 times in the game is the worst goal line performance in the NFL since 2000.
The Cowboys were undisciplined and inept against the Redskins, but I guess it comes down to what you believe. It’s easier for me to believe that the Cowboys are a good team who had a bad week than the Bears being able to overcome all their shortcomings. Dallas was embarrassed, the Bears are still at least publicly, strangely confident, bordering on cocky. I think they get humbled in big D this week…Dallas 24 Bears 10.