Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011Posted: 11:15 a.m.
By Jim Miller
Im nervous for the Bears against the Panthers. Sure, everyone wants to point to first year head coach Ron Rivera, a rookie QB, blah, blah, blah, but here are the facts:
Ron Rivera knows the Bears! He specifically knows the Bears defense and how to attack it. If you think for a minute he was wasting his time in Carolinas defensive meetings all week, you are sorely mistaken. It is not the Bears offense that can hurt the Carolina Panthers chances at Soldier field; it is the defense that could turn the tides on Lake Michigan.
The Bears have proven through three games they cannot make adjustments at the line of scrimmage as per Jay Cutlers testimony to the media last week. Thus, its all on the Bears' play caller, Mike Martz.
The Bears will see atypical hybrid 3-4 fronts and blitzes (like Cats = corner blitz) you dont normally see. Rivera does it by necessity to compete.
Chico, in his first year as head coach, does not have the personnel defensively to do what he envisions so hes flexible to the talent inherited. Furthermore, the Panthers are weak in their front seven defensively. Carolina has young defensive tackles and a linebacking core decimated by injuries.
In order to make up for the lack of pass rush, Ron sends an extra defender versus run and pass. The Bears struggled again last week vs. press coverage. It disrupts timing in the passing game by not allowing receivers off the line of scrimmage. They will continue to see it until they beat it. It was why Jay was waiting at the top of his drop to throw the ball. Remember when the greatest show on turf lost to New England in the Super Bowl? Belichick used press coverage.
When Rivera sends an extra defender, Martz will not know when or who it will be, so this should be an interesting game to see if Martz again can predict fronts and coverages through his play calling.
Nobody has blown Carolina out this year so far. Opponents like Arizona are challenged and so is Jacksonville -- whom Carolina beat for their first win -- but even the World Champion Green Bay Packers had to come from behind to win.
Those three teams have experienced coaches and schemes in place at their respective organizations. How is Carolina hanging with them with a new offense and defense installed in a lockout season? The answer is coaching.
Run the Ball!
The Panthers are a far cry from what they once were up front defensively. They have young, inexperienced players who are gap sound no matter if it is 3-4 or 4-3 front. The Bears have to wear them out running the football.
The problem is, which blocking rules are the Bears going to use? 3-4 rules or 4-3 rules? Again, it comes down to Martz predicting the front and if Martz can call the perfect play to take advantage.
There are a plethora of Go Plays he can call for all fronts, but the Bears running game has been stuck in the mud assignment-wise vs. any front. Physically, the Bears were overmatched to run the ball against Green Bays 3-4 defensive front. Now, the question is will they be overmatched with Carolina's jack-of-all-trades scheme?
The Bears locker room is prideful and they are facing a rookie QB in Cam Newton. The Bears defense even confused Aaron Rodgers a week ago into a Brian Urlacher interception. It looked open, and then it was not.
Therefore, the Panthers are going to press the issue running the football. They have a nice offensive line and quality running backs. Ron knows how to beat a Tampa 2 defense. It is by getting physical for four quarters to wear down a speedy undersized defense.
The Bears are always good at stripping the football, which Ron has addressed all week in practice for RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to beware. The gameplan is on them, not Cam!
I am nervous for the Bears. Last year, the offensive football displayed got worse before it finally got better after a bye week. The same issues exist in now Year Two of Martzs system. This game against Carolina, like the offense, will be a struggle.
Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.