The Bears’ defense presented itself as a hungry, motivated group this week determined not to let the breakdowns — both physical and mental — that led to their collapse against the Packers not happen again.
The Seahawks’ offense looks like it could be a favorable opportunity for Vic Fangio’s group to make a statement.
We’ll start here: Russell Wilson was pressured by the Denver Broncos on 18 of his 40 dropbacks in the Seahawks’ 27-24 Week 1 loss. Perhaps most concerning for Seattle is how poorly their offensive line performed when the Broncos didn’t blitz — Wilson, according to Pro Football Focus, was sacked three times and threw two interceptions when Denver didn’t send a blitz.
And when Wilson was under pressure, he completed five of 12 passes for 72 yards and had a passer rating of 27.1. Granted, the Broncos have a pass rush headlined by Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. But the Bears can match that with Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, as well as guys like Leonard Floyd and Roy Robertson-Harris.
Worth noting: When Wilson was blitzed, he was sacked three times but completed three of six passes for 73 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
So the point here is the Bears’ front seven will need to generate pressure on Wilson without necessarily blitzing. The good news: This group is adept at accomplishing that. Aaron Rodgers was only blitzed twice last week, according to PFF, and was still under pressure almost the entire first half before the Packers flipped their gameplan to go up-tempo and get the ball out quick.
What if the Seahawks follow the Packers’ lead?
The counter for the Bears’ defensive line and edge rushers if the Seahawks focus on quick, shorter throws is to “block shots,” as outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley referred to getting their hands up to knock the ball down. Having Roquan Smith on the field more, as expected, will give this group a boost, too.
The secondary has to be better, but multiple players said a focus this week is “plaster” drills to work on staying with a receiver if a play breaks down and Wilson gets out of the pocket.
The Seahawks being without top wideout Doug Baldwin, who sprained his MCL against the Broncos, thins out the group of weapons at Wilson’s disposal. But tight end Will Dissly (three catches, 105 yards, one touchdown), slot receiver Tyler Lockett (three catches, 59 yards, one touchdown) and, yes, wideout Brandon Marshall (three catches, 46 yards, one touchdown) can still present challenges.
From an offensive standpoint, coach Matt Nagy said a gameplan won't completely change because of what happened in Week 1, but it can be altered a bit.
"I definitely think you could see some of that," Nagy said. "If they see something that they thought worked, that’s a possibility. But again, you’re gonna also see teams that aren’t going to stray away too much from what they do. All teams have identities, offensively and defensively, and so there might be something here or there, but for the most part they’ll just play defense the way they do."
So while the Bears mostly focused on what the Seahawks' offense does, there is an expectation that they'll try to replicate Green Bay's quick-throw success to an extent.
"You always know teams see your last game and they know what you did," linebacker Danny Trevathan said. "You always have to be aware of those situations and know that it can come up at any time, but it’s a copycat league so you gotta be prepared for (that). But you gotta handle what the Seahawks already got coming, so they got an explosive offense, they live on the big plays and running the ball. We just gotta shut down the quarterback, shut down the run game and just play our game and get back to our football."
With the Bears’ defense needing to get prepped Rodgers and Wilson over the last two weeks, backup Chase Daniel has had to do his best to imitate two special quarterbacks in practice.
But this brought up a curiosity — how much time does Daniel have to spend studying Rodgers and Wilson, and does it cut into what he has to do to also prepare himself to come into a game if something were to happen to Mitch Trubisky?
“I find myself last week, Aaron Rodgers, he does stuff that’s just what Aaron Rodgers does, so I find myself doing jump passes, reversing out on runs that we should’t be — and I have to get myself back in the zone come Saturday, no, this is our offense,” Daniel said. “So there is a juggling job to it. But I find it fun. I think it’s fun. You run around, get to sort of imitate some of the best in the game. Listen, we play Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, those guys are up there. It’s fun for me. I take that part very seriously because it prepares our defensive guys, but during offensive periods I’m right behind Mitch doing footwork or whatever he needs to do so I’m at least getting the mental reps of it.”
Daniel said he doesn’t have to watch much film of the quarterbacks he imitates, since he’s moreso just presenting a profile of the player to the defense. Occasionally defensive coaches will give him a few things to do — like a knee hitch before the snap or a specific way of handing the ball off — if the opposing quarterback always does something.
For Daniel, though, there’s a certain amount of satisfaction he gets when watching the Bears’ defense shut down an opposing quarterback.
“First half (Sunday), I was feeling pretty good,” Daniel said. “Some, but at the same time, I mean — our defense, they’re dirty. They are just — I mean, it’s fun to watch. When they’re on, they’re a tough bunch to deal with. I feel it in practice Wednesdays and Thursday, right — full pads, they’re rolling. And it’s good practice for me, too, going up against a defense like this too makes me better.”
Offensive lineman Kyle Long (ankle) practiced in full on Saturday after being held out of Thursday and Friday’s practices. Both he and cornerback Bryce Callahan (knee) are probable for Monday night, while safety DeAndre Houston-Carson (forearm/back) remains out.