By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) The Bears (0-2) are on the road to face the Cowboys (1-1) on Sunday night. Here are my keys to the game.
Offense: Commit to the run
A productive and time-consuming run game travels well. The hope is the Bears can open up with a powerful and drive sustaining rushing attack against the Cowboys, who are permitting 4.8 yards per carry after two games. That kind of production would keep the Bears ahead of the chains and give the quarterback some enviable options in the passing game. It’s an aggressive Cowboys defense, and sometimes over-aggressiveness creates opportunities for the offense.
Defense: Keep growing
A young Bears secondary is making plays on the ball, as cornerback play prevented a couple of red-zone touchdowns against the Eagles. The tackling needs to improve on first contact, which is a significant key against the Cowboys, star receiver Dez Bryant and venerable tight end Jason Witten. Creating pressure will again be enviable against rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who’s playing error-free football so far. Keeping him in a tight pocket could net the Bears some positive results. Prescott is also without a touchdown pass. He’s two-dimensional with high-level scrambling ability. When he hits Bryant over the middle in intermediate to deep routes, it will take a committee approach to prevent the big play.
Special teams: One big play
Eddie Royal has given the Bears some excitement once again in the return game with a 31-yard return in Week 1 and a 65-yard touchdown in Week 2. He’s a veteran weapon that gives the return unit confidence and creates field position. Another big play from somewhere on the special teams unit is a key, either a big return or a takeaway.
Intangibles: Red zone
The Bears defense made some big plays in the red zone in the loss to the Eagles, with a 50 percent touchdown efficiency rating on six attempts. When the field shrinks, that kind of play can turn a game, especially against a young quarterback. Conversely, Dallas held Washington to two red-zone field goals, and an end zone interception by Barry Church closed the door on the Redskins. The winner of the red-zone battle will be key.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.