Written by Steven Wilson | Twitter: @stevenjwilson11
Big. Physical. Fast. There aren’t many glaring weaknesses when you look at the Chicago Bears skill players. Their receivers are two of the most physical, looming wideouts in the game, while their running back is one of the most consistent pass-catching backs in the League. They are also deep.
Behind five-time pro-bowler Brandon Marshall and rising star Alshon Jeffery is Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes and 6-foot-1, 220-pound Josh Morgan, who’s talented in his own right.
“They have big skill players,” Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin stated bluntly after Monday’s practice. “Their running back is big, their tight end is big, [and] their wide outs are big. So it’s a formidable challenge for the entire football team, not just for the linebackers. We’re going to have to have a multiple plan. You can’t go into the game with just one answer against those guys.”
Much like last week’s matchup with Green Bay, linebackers Phillip Wheeler, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins and Jason Trusnik will have their hands full in the passing game. Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett create mismatch problems for defenses, which gives Bears quarterback Jay Cutler roughly seven solid pass-catching options to throw to.
“They’re a very effective offensive football team,” continued Philbin. “We’re going to have to play good team defense. Some of the things that really hurt us the other day were contain and tackling – both fundamental things. You asked me last week, ‘What do you want the defense to stand for?’ Tackling, pursuit – those types of things. We have to do that better.”
Last Sunday’s performance against the Packers will shift the focus to cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan, who will need to wrap up and make solid tackles on ball-carriers, or it will be a long day. The duo on the perimeter will also need to play bigger than their listed 5-foot-10 heights as Marshall stands 6-4 and Jeffery is 6-3.
“Obviously, they do a great job on those balls down the field,” stated Philbin. “Those aren’t easy to defend. Like I said, I think we’re going to have to mix it up a little bit. I don’t think we can [focus] on coverage. I don’t think we’re going to press every play. I don’t think we’re going to be off every play, but we’ve got to mix it up.”
Miami’s third-year head coach hopes he and his staff can dial up enough pressure on Cutler this week at exactly the right time.
“We’ve got to get some pressure on their quarterback and hopefully force them into a bad decision or two, get our hands on the ball,” he stated. “All of those good things that good defenses do, we’re going to need to do. It’s a good skill group, without a doubt.”
Meanwhile, Miami’s offense will have just as difficult a time moving the ball against Chicago’s defense. Despite playing better over the past two games, the Bears are ranked 28th in the NFL allowing 7.9 yards per pass attempt this season. Chicago’s defense has however forced its fair share of turnovers – as a unit, the Windy City has 12 takeaways in five games, including 8 interceptions.
“I thought that they played hard [last week], they were physical, I saw them hitting receivers, I saw them closing down running lanes,” stated Miami’s Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor. “We’ve got to figure out what did they [did] that was so special. Just turning on the film, you’ve got to be really impressed with it. I think they’ve always been known for their defense.”
Leading the charge on the defensive line is four-time All-Pro end Jared Allen, someone whom Lazor is very familiar with.
“They’ve still got some players there that we’ve faced many times that have proven to be good players,” Lazor stated. “They’ve got a guy (Jared Allen) who has terrorized a lot of people, including teams that I’ve been on, playing end for them right now. I’m sure that the attitude that they’re going to bring is going to make it a tough game.”
Playing against a potent offense and a defense known for it’s ability to cause turnovers, Miami will need the best from all 53 players come Sunday.
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