The run support from the Bears’ second level – rookie linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene plus veteran James Anderson – broke down at times in the second half of the loss to the Detroit Lions. Reggie Bush was able to run for just 16 yards in the first half, then went off for 89 in the second half, including third-quarter runs of 39 and 14 yards.
As the run game began functioning, the Lions were able to keep the Bears at bay and from rushing quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was never sacked and never hit.
From that the linebackers turn to helping keep Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce as ineffective as they have been all year, with sub-3.0 rushing averages. Baltimore finished a respectable 12th overall in rushing average last season averaging 4.3 yards per carry, with Rice rushing for 1,143 yards and nine touchdowns and ranking ninth with 1,621 yards from scrimmage – just ahead of Brandon Marshall (1,506) and Matt Forte (1,434).
The goal will be to throttle Rice and force the ball into the struggling hands of Joe Flacco, who is down at No. 29 in third-down passing, with two touchdowns, seven interceptions and an anemic third-down rating of 58.0.
“We’ve got to throw the ball better to run the ball and we’ve got to run the ball better to throw the ball better,” Flacco said. “It’s just trying to find that good balance between the two and have them feed off each other in the right way.”
Bostic was credited with six tackles in Detroit post-game statistics. Greene played only about 25 percent of the snaps as the Lions went extensively with nickel personnel, against which the Bears fielded nickel corner Isaiah Frey.
Frey started the Green Bay and Detroit games because of Packers and Lions personnel packages.
“If that’s how it goes, that’s how it goes,” Greene said. “That’s a good problem to have. If that’s happening, it means we’re putting them in passing situations.”
Bostic and Greene, forced into the lineup because of injuries to D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs, “are improving and they’re getting more experience,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “Each and every day, they get a little better.”
Greene has. He came in for Briggs at Washington and been the weakside linebacker the past two games, getting more confident of himself each week.
“I think in the first game I had a couple of those ‘make-sure’ steps,” he said, referring to that brief hesitation step to be sure of the play and where he needed to go. “But since then, I think I’ve been doing pretty well. And the thing is that if you’re going to make a mistake, make it full speed, always.”
What to watch for: The Ravens make heavy use of Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach as a lead blocker for Rice and Pierce. They have switched up lately, one game starting 310-pound reserve tackle Rick Wagner as a tight end in the fashion the Bears use Eben Britton, and the last three weeks opening with Jacoby Jones as a third wide receiver.
Baltimore has been generally ineffective in all phases of its offense. It is incumbent upon the second level of the Bears’ defense to stop big plays before they get started for an offense that has been able to generate very few of them.