Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011
Posted: 9:47 a.m. Updated: 10:16 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
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Taking shots at the CoverTampa-2 defense of Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli as being passe and behind the NFL times may be fashionable. Its also off target. Facing the offense of the Atlanta Falcons by way of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, thats notable.
In three of the last five seasons the Bears ranked in the top four in scoring defense. When the Philadelphia Eagles and their West Coast offense of Andy Reid (why is it that the West Coast never seems to go out of style?) faced the Bears last year, it seemed to me an intriguing match between two classics, because like it or not, the Cover-2 works and has worked for a long time.
Why thats important is that in 13 of 18 games last season the Bears held the opposing quarterback below, sometimes far, far below that QBs passer rating for the season. The ones they didnt included Tom Brady and Matt Hasselbeck (twice), advanced practitioners of West Coast schemes.
The ones they did, however, included Eli Manning, Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers (three times). And these results were achieved without a year marked by pass-rush pressure close to sufficient by Bears standards.
Where all of this is going is toward dealing with Ryan and the Atlanta offense. The Falcons have scored 21 and 22 points in their two Ryan games against the Bears, so scoring can occur against the SmithMarinelli scheme. But not usually enough to win, which would be a big part of the reason the Bears are the only NFC North team to have four winning seasons over the past six.
Packers vs. Saints
If you want to establish some sense of what the Bears 2011 early road looks like, the NFL has been kind enough to put the New Orleans Saints together with the Green Bay Packers Thursday night in Lambeau Field.
These are the last two Super Bowl winners and also the second and third teams appearing on the Bears schedule. This is distantly reminiscent of the Bears hosting the New York Giants to start the 1987 season (won decisively by the Bears) and is maybe the biggest must-see of this season outside of the Bears schedule.
Whats a notable element in these first three teams on the schedule, plus the Bears, is that all four were playoff teams and returned established cores with a stable coaching situation. Teams that had coaching changes, besides being bad anyway (which, after all, is usually why you make a coaching change), were further hurt by the lockout and lost offseason for scheme installations, personnel orientation and all the rest.
And add one other thought, one that doesnt bode well for the Bears: The Packers believe they actually benefitted from the lockout.
Check out what Aaron Rodgers told longtime pal Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com. Alex was up in Green Bay as part of his annual North American Tour of camps, sat down with Rodgers, who told him, In a way I think this lost offseason was a blessing in disguise. We didnt have to keep re-living the 2010 season...You dont start with that momentum.
Maybe not. But you couldnt prove it by Rodgers preseason: 78.7 percent competion, 4TDs, 0 interceptions.
Just keep telling yourself: It was only preseason, It was only preseason, It was only preseason...
Can Bears stop the run?
Nice to visit with Dan McNeil on our regular Thursday A.M. hit on WSCR-AM 670s "McNeil and Spiegel Show" this morning with Lawrence Holmes sitting in for Matt Spiegel. Lawrence and I sit at neighboring work slots at Halas Hall and share a lot thoughts anyway.
The Packers-Saints was an obvious talking point, and my thought here is that Green Bay is an easy pick at home but this is anything but an easy game, and a Saints win to me is very, very possible given the explosiveness of a New Orleans offense that can score on just about anybody. A Saints win would be a huuuuge bonus for the Bears, because tiebreakers decide playoff qualification in lots of years and a conference loss for the Packers would be a good thing.
Danny has some concerns that the Bears wont really stop the run against the Falcons, and hed also done his homework (reading View from the Moon I like this McNeil guy) and noted that the Bears havent sacked Matt Ryan even once in two games despite him throwing 30 and 33 passes in those games.
The reality is that this is the NFL and, as Jay Cutler saw fit to mention Wednesday, there are no D-2 schools out there on the schedule. So anybody can run on you (unless youre the Pittsburgh Steelers), and the Falcons have Michael Turner and his 1,371 yards and 12 rushing TDs as a one-man credential for their run game.
But one reason I have been consistent in seeing this Bears team as better than most observers do is that there are simply too many good players (Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije, Anthony Adams, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Chris Harris) for this defense to be bad. Somebody will run on them; somebody will throw on them. The Falcons could do both. This is the NFL. The Falcons are not D-2.
Lawrence agrees with me on not believing the Detroit Lions hype; show me were his exact words. Just thinking about it here, its funny how easily everyone seems to believe that the Lions, who have won nothing for a long, long time, will be good and no one seems inclined to believe that the Bears, who have four winning seasons in the last six years, more than any other NFC North team, might actually be good.
10-6 or better - thats the prediction for record, again.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.