By Jeff Joniak
With 25 percent of the home schedule already complete, the Bears have held serve so to speak. They beat a pair of 2012 playoff teams with high hopes and third year quarterbacks who are trying to show they are long term solutions at the position. Given that you can’t lose your home division games and expect to get into the playoffs, the win over the Vikings is extremely important.
It’s not easy winning at Minnesota, Detroit, or obviously Green Bay. The Bears have bankrolled a couple of wins, while transitioning to a new staff and more importantly a new offense. To win while growing the offense is a bonus. If all goes well, the offense is only going to get better.
How the Bears won is also significant. Even with a veteran team, a new season brings new issues and doubt. Earning come from behind wins with an offense that rallied twice to do it is a confidence boost that you just can’t measure. Lance Briggs said it best: the defense now knows the offense can score points. In the end, the Bears offensively show signs they can get into a shootout and live to tell about it. In today’s NFL that is not a small asset.
James Anderson has been an ideal addition to the Bears linebacker unit. The 29-year old veteran has played all 124 snaps so far. Productive games early in 2012, dropped off due to injuries.
Scouted by GM Phil Emery when Anderson played at Virginia Tech. He’s a good athlete and a smart player. Anderson has done very well in coverage with multiple pass break ups against the Bengals and Vikings. Coaches awarded Anderson with a team high 12 tackles against the Vikings and Lance Briggs is calling Anderson a “core” player on the defense. He’s also made a quick impact as one of the leaders on the team. His personality fits a unit that is always looking to have a little fun along the way to making plays.
Pro Football Focus ranks Lance Briggs and Anderson two of the top six 4-3 outside linebackers after the first two games. Each player has had a few missed tackles, but nothing out of the ordinary early in the season across the league.
After two games, the Bears’ third down defense is giving up a league worst 51.9% conversion rate, tied with the St. Louis Rams. Included in that figure, are three conversions of 10-yards or more. In his career, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a 91.7 NFL quarterback rating on third down completing 61.2% of his passes. This season, his rating is only 45.0 with one interception and four sacks. The Bears defense will need to focus on preventing Roethlisberger from being the traditionally strong third down passer than the one who has fewer experienced play makers to work with than he has had throughout his career.
Prior to the season, the Bears boasted the premier third down defense in the NFL allowing only a 34.1 conversion rate. An improved pass rush overall will get that third down number back to what we’re used to seeing.
Fourth and short
According to Pro Football Focus, it has taken 4.91 seconds to sack Ben Roethlisberger on the seven times the Titans and Bengals have put him down. That is a long time for the linebackers and defensive backs to plaster coverage. It takes a lot to bring Big Ben down and his in- pocket evasiveness is a challenge.
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.