The Bears take on the Rams and the two-time Defensive Player of the Year in Aaron Donald on Monday night. If they want any hope of moving the ball on offense, they’ll have to figure out how to minimize Donald’s impact on the game. Shutting him down completely is pretty much out of the question, however.
“You’re never going to stop him, you’re not,” Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms told NBC Sports Chicago. “Especially if you’re dropping back to pass and he’s got one-on-ones or anything like that.”
That doesn’t mean there’s no hope for the Bears offense. In fact, the 49ers laid out a great blueprint for how to move the ball against Donald and the Rams just one week ago.
“The 49ers never dropped back to pass,” Simms said. “Every play was, ‘Hey look over here-- oh wait, we’re going over there. I mean Jimmy Garoppolo in the first drive of the game last week was 4-4 for 69 yards, and his intended air yards were -20. He didn’t throw a ball back to the line of scrimmage.
“It was screens, it was screens, it was fake play actions, screen fake a screen this way, fake a screen that way, throw it to George Kittle over the middle. That’s what you’ve got to do to slow Aaron Donald down. If he starts to get in a groove and goes, ‘Wait, it’s Nick Foles dropping back to pass two out of every three plays,’ he’s going to torch the Bears’ offensive line. But if they can give him something to think about, to react and make him pause a little bit, that’s how you slow him down a little bit.”
The Bears actually employed a decent amount of plays like that to make it past the Carolina Panthers in Week 6. Foles hit David Montgomery and Cordarrelle Patterson on wheel route concepts several times for big gains in big moments. But on the season, Nick Foles has actually been less efficient on short passes than he has been on deeper balls. So far, Foles has completed 62.5% of his passes that travelled between 1-10 yards-- the quick throws that will be needed to neutralize LA’s pass rush. On 40 attempts in that range, he’s also thrown two interceptions and only one touchdown. But he’s completed 71.8% of his 39 pass attempts that travelled between 21-30 yards. Of those passes he’s also thrown four touchdowns to only one interception.
Unfortunately for Foles, the Bears likely won’t have the time to let those deeper routes develop-- or they’ll have to scheme a way to buy Foles that time. In any case, the “game within a game” for the Bears to contain Donald will be key for the Bears to win and claim the best record in the NFC.