Re: Patriots/Bears Game Thread
posted at 12/11/2010 5:40 PM EST
In Response to Patriots/Bears Game Thread
:Just about to post on this article. Rock:
[QUOTE]10 things for Patriots-Bears By Mike Reiss ESPNBoston.com Ten areas that project to be critical, from a Patriots perspective, in Sunday's game against the Bears at Soldier Field (4:15 p.m. ET): 1. Directional kicking and punting. With heavy wind gusts and low temperatures in the forecast, this game could have the feel of the 2008 season finale in Buffalo when the goalposts at Ralph Wilson Stadium had to be tied down so they wouldn't blow over. This highlights the importance of specialists like kicker Shayne Graham and punter Zoltan Mesko, as well as overall special-teams play. The Patriots should be focusing on directional kickoffs and punts as the Bears have been explosive in the return game. RESPONSE: An excellent point. The Pats should try to take Devin Hester out of this game, as much as possible. In super cold, snowy conditions, with winds blustering as high as 45 mph, the Pats can't afford to give up any cheapies on special teams.
2. Identifying and accounting for Julius Peppers. The Bears' defensive end is a game-changing player, similar to Colts pass-rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The Bears move Peppers around in their 4-3 scheme and even sometimes drop him off the line of scrimmage. This will be a big test for offensive tackles Matt Light (left) and Sebastian Vollmer (right), while tight end Alge Crumpler figures to chip in at times. RESPONSE: I expect the Pats to try running directly at Peppers...and wear him out playing run defense. Look for lots of Danny Woodhead on screens, swing passes, shovel passes and draw plays. I see Woodhead as the key player for the Pats tomorrow, in the North Pole-like weather conditions.
3. Playing with good balance. Players were preparing to wear longer spikes in their cleats because of the field conditions at Soldier Field, which are not good. In the Bears' Nov. 28 win over the Eagles, several Philadelphia players -- including quarterback Michael Vick -- had trouble staying on their feet at times. This will challenge players from both clubs, especially with high winds and snow flurries in the forecast, to play with good balance. RESPONSE: BB will have his team ready in this area. The Pats must get off to a good start...not only to take the crowd out of the game, but to make the Bears press a bit offensively. Furthermore, you can expect that field conditions will rapidly deteriorate as the game wears on;
4. Limiting running back Matt Forte. The Bears' leading rusher is also dangerous as a pass-catcher, with his 36 receptions ranking third on the team. Forte is utilized in a somewhat similar way that offensive coordinator Mike Martz used Marshall Faulk in St. Louis, as he's one of the NFL's most productive players. If Forte is limited, in theory, it would put the ball in quarterback Jay Cutler's hands in long-yardage situations, which is a matchup that looks to favor New England. RESPONSE: Shutting down Forte, both as a runner and a receiver, will determine whether the Pats come away with a "W" or "L", in this one;
5. Exploiting the Bears' weakness up front. If there is a soft spot on the Bears' offense, it's the offensive line. Bears quarterbacks have been sacked the most in the NFL this season, in part because of struggles up front. The Patriots might not have a feared pass-rusher, but there should be opportunities to get to quarterback Jay Cutler. Outside linebacker/defensive ends Tully Banta-Cain
(4 sacks) and Jermaine Cunningham are top rushers. RESPONSE: Take away Forte and TE Olsen, and turnovers will follow;
6. Defensive backs playing physical. The Bears' pass-catchers have shown a knack for making plays after the catch, with Cutler sometimes backing out from center and quickly delivering the ball while backpedaling, a la Kurt Warner from his Rams days. So getting physical with Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester at the line of scrimmage -- similar to the way the Patriots played the Jets -- figures to be part of the plan with the idea of taking away those quick routes. The Mike Martz offensive system is based on timing, so the Patriots will be looking for different ways to disrupt that timing. RESPONSE: Agreed. I'm sure that the Bears will play in a similar fashion against the Patriots' receivers. The Pats' receivers must be sure to secure the ball, even if it means sacrificing extra yards after the catch. In a game in these types of weather conditions, field position amd turnovers will be huge;
7. Jay Cutler on the move. In part because of the pressure he faces, Cutler has scrambled his way to 201 rushing yards on the season, so the Patriots must respect his athletic ability in that facet of the game. Cutler sometimes runs even when the pocket holds up and that's an area that the Patriots have had some struggles with this season (e.g. Shaun Hill, Lions, Thanksgiving). RESPONSE: Not too concerned about Cutler scrambling. If he has to do this, it means that the Pats are taking away check off options like Forte and Olsen. He might gain a few yards running...but, eventually, he might throw a pick while on the move...or put the ball on the ground, after getting hit;
8. Balance and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The Patriots' offense has struck a solid balance between the run and the pass over the last four games -- 109 rushes vs. 124 pass attempts. That has opened up play-action possibilities as Green-Ellis' knack for picking up positive yardage has kept the team in manageable situations. The Bears are tough to run on, ranking second in the NFL for fewest rushing yards allowed per game (84.9) and sixth in rushing average (3.7). RESPONSE: As stated above, getting an early lead will be key...as field conditions will deteriorate as the game wears on. The Pats must dominate on the OL. This game is a splendid opportunity for Logan Mankins to demonstate why he's worth huge dollars;
9. Slot matchup -- Wes Welker vs. D.J. Moore. Almost fully recovered from his left knee injury, Welker has been surging. His 72 receptions for 672 yards leads the Patriots, and when he lines up in the slot, it projects to be against Moore, who came up big for the Bears in Sunday's win over the Lions. That figures to be one of the big matchups in the game. RESPONSE: Look for the Bears to try to really get physical with Welker and Deion Branch. The running game, and the effectiveness of Danny Woodhead coming out of the backfield, will determine whether the Pats' offense can be successful in such frigid conditions.
10. Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and return game. With cold temperatures, high winds and snow flurries in the forecast, special teams will be an important part of the game. Tate has shown explosiveness as a kickoff returner at times (2 returns for TDs in first 4 weeks of the season) and the Patriots will be hoping that spark shows up against the 27th-ranked kickoff return coverage unit of the Bears. Edelman has also proven to be dangerous on punt returns, although the Bears and punter Brad Maynard haven't given up much ground there.RESPONSE: Edelman has come close to breaking a few punt returns...Tate must not put the ball on the ground. Pats must be disciplined regarding block in the back penalties...which could have a huge bearing on field position.
Posted by Rocky[/QUOTE]