Bears

15 on 6: Cutler must expect physical game for WR's

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15 on 6: Cutler must expect physical game for WR's

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010
11:39 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

There are great defensive matchups for both sides as the Bears (6-3) prepare to take on the Dolphins (5-4) on the road. I will focus on Jay Cutler's matchups as the Miami Dolphins have, what I believe to be, a very talented secondary.

The Bears must make this their most physical game to date. Miami is a physical team, and desire to turn every game they play into a slugfest. This will have a big impact relating to the Bears WR's who must get off the ball vs. press coverage.

Devin Hester and the rest of the wideouts must deal with Sean Smith who is a legit 6'3" and 214 lbs. and can run. Vontea Davis is no slouch either, at 5'11 and 205 lbs. Plus, Miami recently added former Green Bay Packer Al Harris - a rangy veteran at 6'3" 190 lbs., but is tremendous in bump and run coverage. I did not see him play last week and do not know his health status, but I certainly remember lining up against him. He was solid then, but I can't necessarily say he is that same player today coming off his injury.

These matchups boil down to release techniques, as corners with long arms want to slow down speedy WR's. They get up in a receivers face and do not want them to get going. At the snap of the ball, they use their long arms to hold up WR's creating a more equal playing field when dealing with foot speed.

Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake and Jay need to demand they win at the LOS (Line of Scrimmage). As we all know, the Bears wideouts are very young. This is where they must go back to training camp and tap into all those one-on-one sessions with a big corner like Charles Tillman or Zack Bowman.

The Washington game would be another reference where I thought the Bears receivers saw a lot of bump-and-run looks. Remember the interception by DeAngelo Hall on the slant route to Johnny Knox? They have to win those battles for Jay and the Bears to have success in the passing game.

The run game should be fine with Mike Martz's renewed commitment to balance. The Dolphins give up four yards a rush and the Bears have an opportunity to pop some big runs if Martz can dial up the right run against the right blitz. It's more about how Mike gets a feel for Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's tenancies during the game.

It would be hard for the Dolphins to throw in something totally new on such a short week. They will call what they do well and stick with their basic blitz packages. The same can be said for the Bears offensively since there is just not enough time to work in exotic material and feel confident with the execution.

Keep calling movement plays

We all witnessed Michael Vick Monday night, and while Jay is not Mike, he has become increasingly dangerous with his legs the past two weeks. Dashes, bootlegs, waggles and playaction half rolls with seven-man protection are all great play calls to move the pocket. They also put Jay in position to be a threat to run, and he has thrown the ball extremely well on the move, at times, even better than straight dropback plays.

Lastly, Jay cannot get frustrated! As much as Jay wants receivers to win these matchups, he has to be ready to move on in his reads.

Do Not Beg them to get open! Jay's read may dictate a certain wideout must win, but coverage may delay the timing.

This should be a tight game in Miami.

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner.