By Jeff Joniak-
(WBBM) Here are Jeff Joniak’s “Keys to the Game” for the Bears as they head to Nashville this weekend to play the Titans:
Offense: Consistent Execution
The next step for the Bears offense is about the Bears offense. It’s not about what Tennessee plans on doing defensively, it’s about getting a level of consistent execution. It involves every player on the unit. Cleaning up the snaps that lead to negative plays from stuffs, to penalties, to drops, to poor decisions, to turnovers, to sacks, and cashing in when it’s money time. Quarterback Jay Cutler said it best after the win over the Panthers when he said “there is no panic, this can be fixed in a couple of days”. The reason he said it, is because he believes in the system, and he believes everyone is capable of playing better. Tennessee’s defense is statistically poor across the board. The Titans have given up the second most touchdowns (27), the second most passing touchdowns, and the most offensive points allowed (229) as one of the 12 teams already with eight games played. They are 31st on third down, they are not taking the ball away, and they are not sacking the quarterback. This is an opportunity for the Bears offense
Defense: Fundamentals Rule Vs CJ2K
Blessed with rare speed, Tennessee’s Chris Johnson is a nightmare if he finds daylight. When he entered the league in 2008, he carried 197 pounds over forty-yards in 4.24 seconds. In a word, he’s explosive. His 35” vertical jump, and 10’10” broad jump provide more evidence of that. His time split at 10-yards was 1.4 seconds, 2.41 at 20-yards. The key here is to never lose leverage tackling Johnson. He’s an ad-lib runner, who makes extreme cuts trying to out-race defenders to the corner. The Bears have been a very good tackling team this season and breaking down on this guy and avoid guessing is critical. The Bears remain the league’s premier run defending unit, but they are facing a hot back in Johnson. He started slowly with only 33 carries in the first three games, but he’s had at least 91 yards in four of his last five games including an 83-yard touchdown at Buffalo.
Special Teams: Win The Individual Battles
Coming off a game won by Robbie Gould, the Bears are fortunate to have experience and excellence in the kicking game. Gould’s 200th career field goal beat the Panthers, and he’s got to win the battle with Tennessee’s equally impressive booter Rob Bironas, who has 201 career field goals. Bears punter Adam Podlesh has to be better than Titans punter Brett Kern, who is third in the NFL in net average and 15 punts downed inside the 20. The Tennessee coverage units are strong on punt returns, but 30th in the league on kickoffs and allowed Buffalo’s Brad Smith to go 89-yards for a touchdown. Devin Hester has to be better than Darius Reynaud who has returned a kick 105-yards for a touchdown this season. The Titans are fourth in the Dallas Morning News special teams rankings. The Bears are 12th.
Intangibles: Use Experience To Your Benefit
The Bears are finding ways to win, even when they don’t play their best. That’s a nod to experience and belief. They don’t panic. They make plays that keep them in games. They understand that every snap counts. Against the 3-5 Titans that understanding will come in handy. The reason is Matt Hasselbeck. He is a smart quarterback who understands the Bears defensive scheme as well as anybody. He’s faced Lovie Smith teams twice a year when he was in St. Louis and six times including playoffs against the Bears. Hasselbeck is a 71 percent passer on first down, and 74 percent on third down. He knows where to attack and how. The key is for the Bears defense to make Hasselbeck impatient on drives and keep pressuring him in the pocket. His top receiver is Baylor rookie Kendall Wright, who leads the NFL in third down receptions with 19, and after the Bears defense allowed Cam Newton to convert 10 third downs last week, the Bears will need to get off the field against the Titans to avoid a warped time of possession advantage for the Titans.
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.