It may be tough to think about, but the Chicago Bears have been overlooked on the defensive side of the ball. In comparison to the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens, the Bears have quietly flew under the radar at 3-1 while boasting a top five caliber defense.
This defense is so good at limiting the opposition’s running game that teams quickly abandon it – as evidenced by the 74 rushing plays run against them in four games, good for first in the league. Considering the Jags had to abandon the run against the Cincinnati Bengals, this could become a tough day for Maurice Jones-Drew and company. The Bears aim to control the clock and score enough points to put some urgency in the opponent’s offense that forces them to feel the need to pass. Unfortunately for the Jags they probably won’t be able to pass either.
The Bears don’t allow a lot of scoring either. Currently ranked fifth in scoring defense, the Bears understand what it means to bend but don’t break. The defense is ranked 11th in yards, but knows how to be opportunistic and waits for the right time to create a turnover, sack, or fumble. The defense can stop drives very effectively. Even with six interceptions from Jay Cutler, the team has a turnover differential of +7, good enough for third in the league.
The players on defense are what give the unit such strength. Whether its the seemingly ageless Brian Urlacher captaining the defense or the ball hawking skill of cornerback Tim Jennings (four picks) the team has an endless amount of playmakers. While the unit has holes, they are limited and more like very small chinks in some very solid armor.
If the Jags hope to take advantage, they will have to learn how to be better than 32nd in passing on Sunday. Blaine Gabbert will have to be on top of his game and play out of his mind. Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts will have to find a way to win the coverage battle against a defensive secondary that has 15 passes defensed and nine total picks. While the Jags are developing, it looks like this may be a tough game for them to win – not to mention display any of the development they have going for them.
The biggest hope for the Jaguars may actually be the underneath dump-offs that Gabbert has been doing so frequently this season. Unfortunately for Gabbert, even those plays are not a given for him on the best of days (he only has 55% complete on short passes) and he’s facing a very active linebacking corps and big, tall defensive linemen who can get their hands up.
When looking at the Bears’ defense it is difficult to see the Jags winning this on offense. They will need a Herculean effort from their defense to keep them in the game, especially if MJD is as ineffective against the Bears as other running backs have been.
It’s looking bleak for Gabbert, Blackmon, and Jones-Drew. But this is the NFL and things change on any given Sunday.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims