Reporting Jeff Joniak
(WBBM) Below are Jeff Joniak’s “Keys to the Game” for the Bears matchup against the Rams on Sunday at Solider Field.
Offense: Bounce Back Big
After multiple interception games of three or more, Jay Cutler is 4-1. Bouncing back is something Cutler does.
It starts with limiting negative plays against the Rams. Through two games, the Bears lead the NFL in negative offensive plays with 11 negative rushing attempts, nine sacks, and two negative pass plays. It’s resulting in a league worst 11 yards to go on second down and a league high eight three and out drives. The Bears are just 28th in first down rushing average (3.04ypc) on 27 carries and Cutler’s completion percentage is last in the NFL(51.6). With Michael Bush likely replacing the injured Matt Forte, the Bears can run it on the Rams. St. Louis is giving up a league worst 5.51 yards/carry, even though the Lions and Redskins combined to call runs 37.3% of the time. The Bears have to block Rams defensive end Chris Long, who had 13 sacks a year ago and pressured Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin five times in Sunday’s come from behind win.
Defense: Beat Up Banged Up Line
Three starting offensive lineman are injured and presumably out for the Rams. It didn’t stop them from scoring at least 23 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2006, but it shouldn’t stop the Bears front four from imposing their will upon this group.
Detroit, for example, sacked Rams quarterback Sam Bradford three times and knocked him down eight times. Wayne Hunter couldn’t survive the summer with the Jets at right tackle, but he’s the injury replacement at left tackle for the Rams.
Despite all of that, Bradford is off to a very good start. His quarterback efficiency rating(112.4) ranks behind only Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and San Francisco’s Alex Smith. Bradford is one of seven quarterbacks completing better than 70% of their throws (71.7) and he is fourth in yards/pass attempt (8.47). On third down, Bradford was 9-for-9 for92yds and a touchdown against the Redskins.
New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will run it. Steven Jackson and speedy rookie Daryl Richardson combined for 24 carries and 141 yards against the Skins.
Special Teams; Attention Grabber
When newcomer Sherrick McManus’ cart wheeled Randall Cobb on the opening kickoff at Lambeau, it was a tone-setting attention grabber. The spark never turned into a raging fire, but a similar whack against the young roster of Rams, in front of the home crowd, might just turn into an inferno.
The Bears have to play that way. The Rams roster is turned over and full of young talent on special teams. Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein is off to a good start. Rookie punter Johnny Hekker had a monster game against the Redskins. Rookie kick returner Isaiah Pead and punt returner Danny Amendola are highly regarded.
The Bears are 29th in opponent average starting field position(33.0). Ten of Robbie Gould’s 11 kicks have reached the endzone, six for touchbacks.
Intangibles: An Ounce Of Prevention Is A Pound Of Cure
Forgive the cliché’, however it carries weight as it pertains the Bears.
Whatever happened in Green Bay must be buried in Green Bay. Preventing one loss from becoming two or three is critical. They can worry about the Packers again December 16 at Soldier Field. They can’t fall asleep on Jeff Fisher’s Rams. They have some juice after two games, nearly upsetting Detroit and coming from behind twice to beat the Redskins.
The Rams are resilient and tough, reflecting the personality of their head coach. By kickoff, it will have been a long 10 days for Mike Tice, Jay Cutler and the Bears offense. They are equipped to quiet criticism with a thunderous start and finish against the Rams. They just have to execute the plan and turn the page with a fresh perspective.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffJoniak.