Behind enemy lines: On the Bears with Midway Illustrated

I am many things, but an expert on the Chicago Bears is not one of them.

Thankfully, our Bloguin brother Brett over at Midway Illustrated is a Bears genius. Seriously. He’s got one of the best Chicago Bears blogs online and provides insight to the team and analysis that we only dream of.

If you are curious, Brett grilled me and my vast Steeler knowledge is posted over at Midway Illustrated.

Luckily for you, we returned the favor and asked him some of the questions that were burning on our minds as this weekends game approaches. And yes, we inquired about Jay Cutler.

Q and A time after the jump.


1. Let’s get the question you are probably sick of answering out of the way first: What happened to Jay Cutler against Green Bay and what are you expecting from him in week two?


Midway Illustrated: That wasn’t Jay Cutler out there, turns out it was a bit of a joke, the Bears decided to give Rex Grossman one more shot “to be our quarterback”.  Jay was suffering from a hair line fracture to his ego.

Okay but seriously what really happened was a combination of three things, Cutler made really bad throws, the receivers ran wrong routes and the O-Line didn’t protect Cutler well at all.

There is obviously going to be some issues anytime you have a new QB and receivers working together.  So Cutler has to work on his chemistry more with his receivers.  There will be growing pains as they learn to better operate together in this offense.

Cutler is a gun slinger and he will take chances that he shouldn’t take because he feels with his arm strength he can fit the ball into any coverage he wants to.  (Bam: Hmmm…this type of QB sounds familar…)


2. As much flack as Chicago’s offense as gotten the past few seasons, I couldn’t help but notice that the defense struggled a lot at times last year, finishing 21st in yards allowed. And now Brian Urlacher is down for the season. Is this still the elite defense that most Steeler fans think of when Chicago is on the schedule? What should we expect come Sunday?


Midway Illustrated: The defense was the problem and has been the problem the past two seasons.  This is why Lovie  Smith semi-demoted Bob Babich and brought in Rod Marinelli to get more out of the defensive line.  The last two seasons there has been major problems with the overall effort coming from the front four, from what we’ve seen in the pre-season and in game one against the Packers the pass rush looks to be better than it has been the last two seasons.

The question now can the front four get a good pass rush on a week to week basis to help out the Cover-2, which relies primarily upon pressure from the front four to be successful.

Even with the success the defense had against the high-powered Packers offense (from a yards allowed stand point), one thing really effected the Bears in that lose and that was the failure to generate a single turnover.  Since Lovie Smith arrived in Chicago 21-percent of all the touchdowns the Bears have scored have been from defense and special teams.  The Bears had a streak of 26 games of forcing at least one turnover snapped against the Packers, in order to have success at stopping the Steelers they will need to force some turnovers.

The one positive from last season on defense was the Bears were fifth in the league at stopping the run, whether or not that continues with Urlacher out remains to be seen.  I am not at all confident in Hunter Hillenmeyer manning the MIKE ‘backer spot.  If the Steelers are effective at running the ball, chances are Hillenmeyer’s lack of successful play will have a hand in it.


3. How good are the Bears offensive tackles and will the be able to handle James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley blitzing from the outside?

Midway Illustrated: The best way for the Bears to attempt to slow down the Steelers’ exotic and highly successful blitzing attack will be to run the ball effectively out of the two TE set.  Matt Forte will likely be the key for success in slowing down the blitzes because he is one of the best blockers in the league as a RB.  Forte is also good sized at 6-foot-2 215-pounds so he can better square up on a blitzing LB than some of the smaller RBs out there.

Plus the Steelers are likely going to have to account for Greg Olsen and Matt Forte in the passing game, Forte can line up wide as good as any of the Bears’ receivers run routes and catch the football like a receiver.  The Steelers may have to think twice about dropping a D-Lineman back in coverage in the flats because Forte can catch balls anywhere on the field.

Olsen is also a major threat as a TE and can cause match up problems for any one player that lines up to cover him.  The Packers succeeded in slowing Olsen by often times doubling him with a safety and a LB on each and every passing play.  The more creative the Bears get with Olsen and Forte on offense the better chance they have of succeeding against the Steelers.

As far as the offensive tackles, they need to show a good deal of improvement in pass protection from last week to this.  Orlando Pace didn’t look like the player worthy of the three year contract he signed and while Chris Williams has good pass protection ability and footwork he did look like what he is, essentially a first year OT making his first start of his career.


4. Pretend you are Lovie Smith. What’s the biggest adjustment Chicago must make over the course of this week to beat Pittsburgh and end up at 1-1?

Midway Illustrated: Focus on running the football no matter how hard it may be to run against the Steeler defense.  The Bears’ defense should be stout enough to keep the game close throughout so there shouldn’t be any reason to panic and focus solely on passing the football.  Matt Forte is known for getting better as the game goes on and a lot of his best plays have come late in games when Forte suddenly figures out a defense’s tendencies and he rattles off a big run.  Out of the first 12 plays against the Packers, 10 of those plays were passing plays which allowed the Packers to pin their ears back and blitz and force Cutler into bad throws and INTs.

Forte is not only a big and physical back he is also surprisingly agile for a player his size.  Forte’s biggest asset may be his patience and vision when running the football.  He has a great ability to find a hole and cut into and explode through the hole.  If I’m Ron Turner I’m attacking the Steelers with a two TE set and running the ball as much as possible and not backing down from it.  Then once I have that tendency established I’m spreading the Steelers out with three wide receivers and then putting Forte and Olsen in motion to force the Steelers to cover both of them to lessen the number of players the Steelers can bring on the blitz.

I’m also going to direct Cutler to be pretty animated with his cadence at the line of scrimmage and barking out all sorts of signals to make it look like he’s set to hike the ball.  All in an attempt to see if I can get the Steelers to give away who is blitzing on that particular play.  Then making the adjustment from there.  Sort of the Peyton Manning strategy, be real animated with my calls at the line and see if I can pick up on the pre-snap blitz look the Steelers might be bringing.

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