By Chris Emma–
(CBS) Can the Bears make it two in a row?
After their season started ominously at 0-3, the Bears rebounded last Sunday with a win over the Lions. They hope to earn another victory this Sunday against the Colts.
Two 1-3 teams with major struggles are set to square off at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Bears rode a terrific defensive performance to victory in Week 4 but scored just 17 points on 402 yards. Meanwhile, the Colts have failed to protect Andrew Luck, the game’s top-paid player and their face of the franchise.
What do the Bears have in store for Sunday’s contest with the Colts? Perhaps another victory.
Here’s what to watch for:
Right guard Kyle Long has offered high praise for Bears rookie running back Jordan Howard ever since he’s joined the team. On Thursday, he conveyed that in a unique way. Long said that Howard’s temperament resembles that of a shark, with little emotion and the ability to attack at a moment’s notice.
The Bears’ victory over the Lions was marked by Howard’s stellar debut, a 111-yard rushing performance. He’s the first Bears running back to break the century mark in his debut since Matt Forte back in 2008 against the Colts, the opening game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Now, it’s Howard leading the Bears’ backfield. He’s assumed the role of feature back after Jeremy Langford suffered an ankle injury in Dallas back in Week 3. Howard may not relinquish his role when Langford returns.
Howard has brought the Bears stability on offense. He hits the hole and is a tough back to bring down, always fighting for those extra yards. Look for the Bears to feed Howard plenty in Sunday’s game.
Where was receiver Alshon Jeffery last Sunday? Mostly covered.
The Lions draped Jeffery with coverage, which in turn created opportunities for Kevin White and Eddie Royal. It was Royal who finished with more than 100 yards of receiving and a touchdown in the victory.
Bears backup quarterback Brian Hoyer has been efficient in his two starts, not turning the ball over once. When Jeffery has been covered tight, he’s found other options instead of forcing the ball in.
Expect the Colts to come with similar coverages on Jeffery, especially with White likely lost for the season. How will Hoyer work around it?
First of all, he can only hope that Royal is able to play. Royal didn’t practice at all this week and is listed as questionable. He’s seemingly a game-time decision, with coach John Fox stating that he doesn’t enforce a “no practice, no play” policy.
If Royal is unable to go, Jeffery will certainly face double coverage. That will mean Cameron Meredith must take advantage of his chances in the offense.
Despite their injuries and challenges in the first quarter of the season, the Bears defense ranks 10th in yards surrendered and eighth in pass defense.
Credit defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, the mastermind behind this success. Following Sunday’s win over the Lions, several Bears players spoke out to offer their Fangio credit.
Fangio had his pass rush producing pressure on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, and the young secondary always seemed to be in place. Deiondre’ Hall and Jacoby Glenn each picked up interceptions in the effort.
Facing Luck will be a different ordeal. He’s one of the game’s premier talents, featuring a strong arm and boasting the ability to carve up this defense.
For the Bears to find success, they must get the pass rush consistently home, creating discomfort for Luck. If he has time in the pocket, then it will be a long day for the visitors in Indianapolis.
Fangio’s defense must dictate the game for the Bears to make it two in a row.