The Titans will face another tough NFC North team this week, going to Chicago to challenge the division-leading 5-3 Bears.
When I think of the Bears, the first thing that comes to mind is their great teams and players of the 1960s. Coach ‘Papa Bear’ George Halas, Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Doug Atkins, Mike Ditka and Bill George. Their 1963 team won the NFL championship, one of only two times a team other than the Packers did it from 1961-1967.
The second thing that comes to mind is their teams of the 1980s. Coach Mike Ditka, DC Buddy Ryan, Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, William Perry and Jeff Fisher. That 46 defense was something else. The 1985 Bears shutout the Giants and Rams in the playoffs, then demolished the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
This year’s edition of the Bears isn’t a typical one. The Bears usually have a strong defense but an offense that’s adequate at best. There’s been a role reversal this year. Chicago is fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 28 points a game, On the other hand, the defense is only average, being good against the run but weak versus the pass. Here’s a look at the 2008 Bears:
Kyle Orton quarterbacked the Bears for their first eight games, before going down with an ankle injury last week. Rex Grossman replaced him and helped turn a ten-point deficit into a three-pint win. While Grossman is likely to start, Orton said he’ll play if he can. Orton is quite a bit better than Grossman, but he may not be on a bum ankle.
RB Matt Forte is the key to their offense in this game, especially if Grossman is the quarterback. After a fast start, Forte slowed down but then rebounded against the Lions last week.
The Bears don’t have a go-to receiver, primarily because Orton has been spreading the ball around. Seven players have double-digit receptions, with five players having over 20 catches. Return specialist Devin Hester is now being used at WR. The tight ends, Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark are one of the best TE tandems in the league. Forte, the RB, is the leading receiver.
The offense has been using the no-huddle at times this year. Expect to see some more of it Sunday.
What’s wrong with this picture? The Bears D is only average, despite having six Pro Bowl players, with eleven cumulative Pro Bowl appearances, as starters.
Although the Titans haven’t played the Bears in four years and their personnel are unfamiliar, their primary defense is very familiar. Chicago plays a lot of the Tampa-2 defense, the same as Tennessee sees twice a year from the Colts. The Titans have also seen it twice in the last 11 months from the Chiefs. There is a difference, though — the Bears have better personnel on defense than either the Colts or Chiefs. When not in the Tampa-2, Chicago blitzes or plays a Cover-3.
One problem with their pass defense has been the lack of a good pass rush from their front four. They’ve had to blitz to create pressure. If the Titans receivers can’t have some success against the Bears, they probably won’t do well against any defense this year, unless it happens in the Lions game.
Hester has been in a slump and hasn’t scored yet this year on a return. Still, he’s a dangerous weapon, liable to take it all the way anytime he has the ball in his hands. I wouldn’t give him the chance to. Better to kick it out of bounds and rely on the defense to stop them.
Grossman will start for the Bears, the Titans will concentrate on stopping the run, and Grossman will be ineffective. It should be a relatively low scoring game and the Titans have the better defense.