Friday, September 18, 2009

Can the Bears steel a win?

Zack Bowman played at cornerback for nine snaps against the Packers, but he'll have a lot more chances this Sunday against the Steelers.

Bowman will take over the starting job from Nathan Vasher this weekend. While Vasher didn't do terribly in Green Bay (Rodgers was 17/28 for 184 yards), he let Greg Jennings get way, way behind him on what turned out to be the game-winning 50-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. Bowman will need to bring his A game against Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.

The Bears will be forced to make another change as well, as Pisa Tinoisamoa says there's no way he can play this weekend. Nick Roach, who played the second half against the Packers due to Tinoisamoa's injury, will play at strong-side linebacker.

Bears vs. Steelers Preview

So other than trying to keep the remaining players healthy and on the field, what do the Bears need to do in order to keep from falling to 0-2?

The Steelers will be well rested, having played the NFL's opening game last Thursday at home against the Titans. They eked out a 13-10 win in overtime, and were unable to put the game away in regulation partly because they never got their running game going. Willie Parker averaged a paltry 1.5 yards per carry, and the longest rush by any Steeler was eight yards.

Roethlisberger, normally a game manager more than a gunslinger, carried the load with 43 pass attempts. He completed 33 of them and piled up 363 yards, adding a touchdown and two picks. The aforementioned Holmes and Ward both went over 100 yards receiving.

Here's some good news for Bears fans: though Pittsburgh allowed just 10 points, the Titans had 320 yards of total offense. And on top of that, safety Troy Polamalu sprained his MCL and will not be on the field this Sunday. There's no question in my mind that this is a bigger loss for Pittsburgh than Brian Urlacher is for the Bears.

Keys to the Game

Run the ball to set up play action. The Bears' pass/run ratio of 54/46 in the game against the Packers wasn't all that bad. But with the line unable to open up holes, the Packers were free to sit back in coverage, and cover they did: Cutler was just 17/36. The Bears need to have success in the running game, and the earlier the better. This will allow Cutler to settle in in his first home game, and will open up the possibility of the play action pass.

Tell Big Ben what time it is. And by that terrible, extreme stretch of a pun, I mean that when defenders get the chance to hit Ben Roethlisberger, they need to clock him (sorry, I can't help myself). Big Ben's biggest strength is his ability to shed defenders and keep the play alive. If the Bears get their hands on him, they need to bring him down.

Don't throw four interceptions. I know, brilliant analysis, right? But seriously, Cutler needs to remain at least slightly calmer than a gremlin that's just been exposed to bright light. In trouble? Throw the ball away if need be. Throw it at a guy's feet where at least the defender can't catch it. Just don't throw it to a guy wearing black and gold.

Special teams. One would think Pittsburgh's low-scoring, 13-10 victory in Week 1 was no fluke. Another defensive battle is certainly not out of the question, if not likely. That means Devin Hester's 7.5 yard punt return average from Week 1 won't cut it, and hopefully Brad Maynard can keep up his 49.5 yard punting average.


I'm not great at knowing where NFL players went to college, so for my benefit but also hopefully for yours, I present to you:

Where'd he come from? (a look at the alma maters of some of the notable players whom the Bears are about to face, and not so notable players who attended a college of note)

QB Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (OH)
RB Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois
LB LaMarr Woodley, Michigan
RB Willie Parker, North Carolina
WR Santonio Holmes, Ohio State
WR Hines Ward, Georgia
S Troy Polamalu, USC

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