By Laurence W. Holmes-
(WSCR) Even without Jay Cutler, there weren’t a lot of people expecting the Bears to be riding a two-game losing streak heading into Tebow-country.
The Bears got lucky when everyone else in the wildcard hunt lost too last week. They can’t count on that again. There are countless storylines for this game, including whether the offense can put points on the board. Along with that here’s what I think is interesting.
The Effect of the Spread Option vs. Cover 2: Last week, Tim Tebow did a nice job vs the Vikings Cover-2 look. He was super-efficient completing 10 passes on 15 throws. Two of those passes went for touchdowns. Yes, the Broncos receivers racked up some YAC, but Tebow made proper reads and when given time, he made decent enough throws. To be fair, the Vikings secondary is suspect, but one could make the same argument about the Bears safeties. Discipline is key. The Vikings defensive backs bit up hard when Tebow even looked like he was leaving the pocket. That’s the effect of the spread. In truth, the Broncos quarterback only ran the ball four times last week, but seeing what he’s able to do when he breaks contain has every defender who faces him on edge. That allowed Eric Decker and DeMaryius Thomas to get behind the defense and make big plays. Craig Steltz and Chris Conte can’t make the same mistakes. Points for the Bears offense are at a premium, so the defense can’t allow any extra scoring chances.
John Fox vs Julius Peppers: Peppers has had an outstanding year. The Bears have done a great job of maximizing his athleticism. Each week, they look for matchups up and down the offensive line that Peppers can exploit. That’s why you see him moving from end to tackle as often as he’s done it. There probably isn’t any coach in the NFL that is better suited to neutralize Peppers than John Fox. Fox doesn’t even need the tape, he knows what Peppers can and can’t do because he coached him for eight seasons in Carolina. I’m intrigued by the movement of Peppers in this game. Usually in option play, reading the “End” is a very important component. The Bears probably will want Peppers on the outside more because of his ridiculous athleticisim or the Bears could choose to try and bust up plays and collapsing the pocket up the middle. My suggestion is to push Tebow right if you can.
Bears vs. The Denver Air: Being affected by being up a “Mile-High” is not a myth. This is what Matt Bowen told Boers & Bernstein this week about playing in that atmosphere:
“It’s a shock to your system. You start running and all of sudden you say to yourself ‘ Man, I can’t breathe and you start panicking. When you come out of the locker room, the visiting locker room at Mile High, there’s that sign that tells you how high up you are. You’re always reaching for air.”
It’s most prevalent early on in the game, so the Bears need to be aware of that. It’s an actual home-field advantage. Sustained drives by the Broncos early could lead to a disaster for the Bears.
Tim Tebow’s Will vs Brian Urlacher’s Talent & Experience: Urlacher gets a lot of credit for his athleticism. It’s freakish, no doubt. What he doesn’t get enough credit for is being a student of the game. He’s a damn smart football player who loves the idea of a challenge. That’s what the Broncos’ offensive identity represents. Urlacher is going to be put in positions this week to make some snap judgement calls. He’s going to have to keep everyone in the right spot and make plays. In my opinion, this is a game that sets up for the Bears’ linebackers to be either the heroes or the goats. I’d be shocked if you didn’t see Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Nick Roach combine for somewhere around 25 tackles. Urlacher and crew need to turn the tables on Denver and get them reacting to the Bears instead of the other way around. Tebow protects the ball well (one interception in last 158 attempts). The Bears need to take it away. The linebackers are going to have to be everywhere and make plays all day.
The Bears defense was shaken by what happened last week against Kansas City. To give up 10 points and lose is hard, but Briggs told me that the hardest part was letting go of the Hail Mary that was the difference in the game. He turned off the TV when he got home and played board games to get away from football because he was still so mad. You can imgaine that Urlacher had a similar reaction. The Bears defense knows that the playoff chances of the team rest on their shoulders. Tim Tebow is a force and there’s no denying that, but Urlacher and the Bears find themselves backed up against a wall. How they react could either give hope for the postseason or dash it.
Follow me on Twitter (@LaurenceWHolmes) as I’ll be tweeting my thoughts as the game goes on.