The Bears (2-5) will hit the road to play their first game under the lights on Monday Night Football against the Chargers (2-6). Both teams are struggling right now and will both come out desperate to get their third victory. Here are the keys to the game.
This week the Bears need to come out hot. That means coming out to start the game passing and not being afraid to take a shot down field. Last week against the Vikings, the Bears wasted almost an entire half of football by being tentative and settling for the short passing again, when they should have thrown the intermediate to long balls. So offensive coordinator Adam Gase has to call an aggressive game, to help keep up with the Chargers high powered offense.
This means that Gase will have to get rookie running back Jeremy Langford involved early in the game. This will be Langford’s first start and with any rookie the first thing you want to do is instill some confidence in him.
Langford is capable of carrying the load in the running game with starting running back Matt Forte being sidelined with an MCL sprain. But it will be interesting to see how Langford responds in the passing game, after last week’s critical drop in the fourth quarter against the Vikings.
The next step in coming out aggressive against the Chargers is getting tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey a hefty amount of plays. Both are huge play makers for the Bears and will be critical if the Bears want to get their third victory.
Bennett has been pretty quiet in terms of catches the past few weeks, but the Chargers give up big plays tight ends and Bennett should have a big day.
With Jeffrey back in the starting offense, the Bears have looked his way to make big time plays. Jeffrey will be going against the Chargers corners, who’s heights are 5ft 9’’ in Brandon Flowers and 5ft 10’’ in Jason Verrett, so look for quarterback Jay Cutler to utilize all of Jeffrey’s 6ft 3’’ frame against the smaller corners.
The Bears defense will have a big challenge on their hands with trying to stop the leagues leading passer in Philip Rivers. Rivers though will be without his leading receiver, Kennan Allen who suffered a kidney injury in last weeks’ loss to the Ravens.
The defense will have to apply pressure throughout the entire game. The Chargers have had injuries on the offensive line and without Allen, this is a perfect opportunity for the Bears defense to get in Rivers’ face and disrupt his rhythm with his receivers. Rivers also has a tendency to hold the ball for a longer time for routes to develop downfield and because of this he has been sacked 19 times on the season. So if the Bears secondary can hold up, this should give the pass rushers some opportunities to sack Rivers and hopefully create turnovers.
Cornerback Kyle Fuller got his first interception of the season last week against the Vikings. Hopefully this gave the former first round pick some confidence and something he can build off for the rest of the season. If the Bears can create a turnover on the Chargers high powered offense, that has a -6 turnover ratio, this will be a huge positive for the Bears defense.
Another thing to watch for is how the Bears safeties play. Rookie free safety Adrian Amos is emerging as a consistent player for the Bears but it’s the strong safety position that has been struggling. In both loses to the Vikings and the Lions, the strong safety has given up a big play late in the fourth quarter or overtime, that eventually lead to the gaming winning score. So watch to see how veteran Antrel Rolle or rookie Harold Jones-Quartey, play their strong safety position.
After yet another disappointing outing from the special teams unit, with giving up a punt return for a touchdown and missing a field goal against the Vikings, the special teams unit needs to stay disciplined.
The Chargers are ranked dead last in the NFL with only one return yard on punts. So the Bears can’t let their guard down even though the Chargers haven’t had much success and with the Bears unit struggling all season, the Chargers could be looking to finally have some positives in the return game.
If the game is close like it has been the past two week, lets see if the Bears can finish strong and get the win. The Bears have showed competitiveness all season but now its time to see if the Bears have that killer instinct. If the Bears can show that killer instinct hopefully it can carry over throughout the season.
Bears get the win 31-28.