Offensive linemen had to deal all last week with questions as to how they could possibly deal with the pass-rushing terror of Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. Neither Raven had a sack and Dumervil had the only tackle between the pair.
Maybe the questions should have been to Dumervil and Suggs about their dealing with Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills.
Now the Bears’ linemen are answering the same questions about blocking St. Louis ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn. The familiar bromide – “Run away from power, run at speed” – may be the first and best answer against a defensive line fielding three No. 1 picks (Long, Quinn, tackle Michael Brockers at 6-5, 326 pounds).
“Basically [the Bears] are pass-protecting well,” said St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher. “They pass-protect as a group. They have a diverse protection screen. They’ll use tight ends and backs to help. It’s a good group. It’s one of the better groups we’ve faced.”
The Bears are averaging 4.5 yards per carry and put a 4.0 on Baltimore’s top-five rushing defense. The Rams are 20th in rush average allowed (4.2 per carry) and forcing Long (270 pounds) and Quinn (264) to deal with 50-pound size disadvantages to Bushrod and Mills is one way to slow the pressure on Josh McCown.
But the pass protection will require a combination effort at some point, regardless of run-game success. The interior of center Roberto Garza and guards Kyle Long/Matt Slauson has been generally stout and the need for them giving McCown security directly in front of him is the first part of negating Long and Quinn.
“We have these defensive ends rushing deep around the pocket and we try to keep them out of the middle,” said offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer. “We ask our quarterback to step up. He’s done a nice job of doing that, getting away of the rush outside the tackles.”
What to look for: St. Louis has used four defensive tackles no less than 300 pounds (the Bears have one, Landon Cohen, and that is being generous). The attention this week has been the Long brothers facing each other but the job Kyle and Slauson do against Brockers and Kendall Langford is the key to keeping the Bears out of third-and-longs against an elite pass rush.