We explore the keys to a Chicago Bears victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 6.
The Chicago Bears’ 23-29 loss to the Indianapolis Colts last weekend will be tough to stomach. It was certainly a game where the Bears did some good things, just not enough of them to win.
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Chicago will be in the confines of the Windy City to take on their next opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams have had disappointing starts to the year, but one will take a small step in the right direction this Sunday. Here are the keys that will ensure a Bears win this weekend.
Last week’s keys:
1. Get Cameron Meredith and Joshua Bellamy involved
Meredith had a breakout performance last Sunday. The former college quarterback racked up 9 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though. Despite his gaudy stat line, Meredith did have two fumbles, one of which was lost to the Colts. Ball security has now become a subject of issue for the young receivers who has as many fumbles as he does game appearances. However, Meredith’s performance is ultimately good enough to secure this key for the Bears. I know the key says Cameron Meredith AND Joshua Bellamy, but Meredith’s performance left very little room for Bellamy to be on the field.
2. Put Andrew Luck under pressure early and often
The stats appear to be in favor of the Bears here, but the tale of the tape says otherwise. The Bears forced 5 sacks of Andrew Luck, but the pressure was extremely inconsistent. Luck had a clean pocket on too many occasions which allowed him to pick the defense apart. One bright spot through all of this was Willie Young. After an abysmal start to the season, Willie Young responded with three sacks of Andrew Luck, and applied the most consistent pressure of any Bears last Sunday. Despite a great individual effort, the Bears still fall short in this category.
3. Never fall behind by more than 10 points As I mentioned before last week’s game, the Colts are a momentum team. The Bears did a solid job of staying even keel throughout the game, but failed to pounce on opportunities at times. That being said, the Bears never fell behind by more than 10 which gives them this key.
Oct 9, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) runs with the ball against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Ride the Howard train to victory
It’s far too early to crown Jordan Howard as the next franchise back for the Chicago Bears. Classifying Howard amongst the all time greats like Forte and Payton will take years, not games. What is clear though is that he is the heart and soul of the Bears’ offense.
After 51 career carries, Howard has amassed 296 yards which averages out to 5.8 yards per carry (TPC). For many running backs, the YPC is often deceiving because one explosive play accounts for the vast majority of the player’s yards. However, Howard’s YPC sing a far different tune . Despite blasting through the Colts’ defense for a 57 yard carry last Sunday, Howard would still have managed over 4 yards a carry with his 57 harder removed. His ability to continually keep Chicago’s offense on schedule is an extremely underrated aspect of his game.
Speaking of staying on schedule, the Bears only had one three and out last week. Winning the time of possession battle will be especially critical today with Jacksonville’s explosive offense coming to town. Howard’s running isn’t just a key for offensive success, but defensive as well. Howard needs to top 100 yards in the running game and average 4.5 YPC for the Bears to snag this key.
Oct 9, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) catches a pass for the winning touchdown against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeated Chicago 29-23. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
2. Cover! Cover! Cover!
The Bears were glaringly weak at cornerback to start the season, and it proved to be the Achilles heel last Sunday. TY Hilton had a field day against the battered secondary with 171 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps the worst part of Hilton’s success is because he is a receiver the Bears match up well with for the most part. Their secondary is full of athletic playmakers with solid speed. Hilton is a smaller wide receiver who uses his speed and agility to create separation and stretch the field. As the stat line shows, the matchup did little to help the defense. This week will a significantly harder test for the Monsters of the Midway.
The Jaguars have not one, but two big name receivers coming into town. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns both have over 200 receiving yards on the year and pose matchup threats across the secondary. Both have height on par with Alshon Jeffery which is exactly what the Bears don’t want.
Tracy Porter, Harold Jones-Quartey, Jacoby Glenn, and Cre’Von Leblanc all measure in at 5’11 on the Bears’ official website. Fade routes now put the Bears at an automatic disadvantage, and we haven’t even talked about the Jags’ 6’5 tight end Julius Thomas!
There is a bright spot at least. Jacksonville’s running game has been borderline abysmal this season. The Bears need to take advantage of this and drop at least 6 if not 7 players into coverage every play. The pass rush has struggled to get home this season anyways, so it seems to be a rather small sacrifice for the time being. With the extra men in coverage, the Bears need one interception and 4 pass deflections to earn this key.
Oct 2, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach John Fox looks on during the first half against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
3. Get Alshon Jeffery the ball
No, this is not a knee jerk reaction to the 4th down play last week. The fact of the matter is that Alshon Jeffery is the Bears’ best offensive player and he isn’t getting the ball nearly enough. Jeffery has 3 fewer receptions than both Eddie Royal and Zach Miller. Better yet, Jeffery still has fewer targets than Kevin White, and he’s been on IR for over a week now!
Yes, there are a number of factors that go into getting Jeffery the ball. First, he does draw a decent amount of double coverage. Second, the game plan likely does a fair amount of dictating where the ball goes. Third, Hoyer has to be looking for Jeffery and pull the trigger.
That requires a lot to go right on one play, but here are some counterpoints to what I mentioned above. First, even with double coverage, Jeffery can be open. I’m not here to advocate for Jay Cutler’s jump balls to Jeffery in double and triple coverage, but it does prove that Jeffery is more than capable of making plays despite double coverage. Second, it’s clear the offense game plan has done little to include Jeffery.
Think back to week 2 when Kevin White was being targeted almost twice as much as Jeffery, now imagine if the Bears tried to do that for their best player. Lastly, Hoyer needs to be more aware of the field. He has been relying on his first read far too often this year, and it’s often resulted in check downs over touchdowns. For the Bears to earn this key, Jeffery needs 125 yards and a touchdown.