by Wanda Wiedman // @WandaW63
Bears 27 – 24 Ravens
The Chicago Bears locker room must have been electric. Players who were told they were finished rose up to the challenge and balled out better than they had in years. Coaches who wondered if this team would ever win were finally seeing progress in themselves and the players. A change swept through the air and it started with the swagger of a pretty boy assassin.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky came in against the Baltimore Ravens with one goal in mind: win at every cost. And with the help of a defense that resembles that of the monsters they once were, last Sunday’s win is just the tip of the iceberg.
But, can the Bears make it two wins in a row, especially against a tough Carolina Panthers defense? Well, according to NFL.com, the Panthers are 4th in defensive power with the Bears a few notches below, ranked 6th in the league. This could very well be a defense-driven game, but it all rests on how well the rookie can connect with his receivers, and how well the defense can expose quarterback Cam “Superman” Newton’s weaknesses.
First, the Bears offensive line has to do a better job of protecting Trubisky from the likes of defensive end Julius Peppers, who currently has 6.5 sacks in 6 weeks, and linebacker Luke Kuechly, who is a thorn in every quarterback’s side. Currently, both Peppers and Kuechly have injuries that might keep them out of Sunday’s matchup.
The Bears offense needs to give Trubisky enough time to stand in the pocket, or at the very least, give him an out to throw down the field. Against the Ravens, he was sacked four times. If the offensive line can hold strong, they can continue to run the ball and allow him time to throw down the field.
At some point, the longest pass has to come from the quarterback, and not from your punter or running back. So, a connection with wider receivers Tanner Gentry, Tre McBride and Kendall Wright has to be huge against the Panthers defense. Even utilizing running back Tarik Cohen in the slot can’t hurt since they use him for everything else anyway.
What can hurt the Bears are the holding penalties from the offense. They kill the rhythm of the game, especially after a big play. In the past six weeks, the Bears have had 12 offensive holding calls, totaling 121 yards lost.
As for the Bears defense, they have to stop Cam Newton, especially in the pocket. When he gets rattled in the pocket and sacked too many times, he struggles to get any rhythm going and tends to make mistakes. Defensive end Akiem Hicks is tied with Cameron Jordan and Von Miller with five sacks on the season. Alongside Hicks are linebackers Pernell McPhee and Leonard Floyd with three sacks each. Add Danny Trevathan and Willie Young to that mix and the nightmare will begin against Newton.
The improvement of the Bears safeties and cornerback group has been a real treat to watch. They have been able to shut down the long pass. Kyle Fuller has emerged in his role as well as Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan and rookie Eddie Jackson.They will be the key to stopping wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess and dual-threat Christian McCaffrey.
But, the biggest question is on special teams. Last week, the Bears were smoked by the return game twice. Bobby Rainey ran for 96 yards, and then in the 4th quarter by Michael Campanaro for a 77-yard return, both resulting in touchdowns. McCaffrey is the Panthers return guy and special teams will have to shut him down quickly.The absence of special teams captain and gunner Sherrick McManis, due to a hamstring injury, was evident in both of those plays.
The Bears have to make those plays, especially against the Panthers. A win against the Panthers will show the league that the Bears are back and ready to play gridiron football. This will be a true test of Trubisky’s ability to take the ball down the field and give his team a chance to win; but it will hinge on all three phases clicking on the ground and in the air to beat a team that currently leads the NFC South.
Chat about the Bears with Wanda on Twitter // @WandaW63