The problem is still the same as it’s been from the start of the season, just a little worse each week it isn’t fixed: The Bears have no defensive lineman with more than one sack through five games. Through five games last season they had five with at least two.
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Why this takes on added importance Thursday night is that for the third week in four, the Bears are facing a quarterback with at least one Super Bowl ring – Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and now Eli Manning. The pass rush managed three sacks of Roethlisberger and two of Brees.
If they do not equal or top those totals against Manning, chances of the two-time Super Bowl MVP doing them serious damage go up exponentially as Thursday’s game goes along.
The plan is to completely throttle what running game the Giants have (52 yards per game) and then attack Manning in force. The Giants have three receivers with averages of 15 yards or more per reception and the Bears have given up an average of five plays of 20 yards or longer per game.
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Manning has been sacked 15 times and thrown a league-high 12 interceptions. Only Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert has a higher interception percentage (8.1) than Manning’s (5.9). The best defense against big plays is depriving an offense the time needed for deep throws.
“We just have to eliminate the big play,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “These guys take more shots down the field than almost anybody in the NFL. They’re in the top in the league in air yards and shots down the field. So that’s big. [Manning], he’s a fierce competitor. There’s not a whole heck of a lot you can throw at him that he hasn’t seen.”
The Bears will be working to stop the run and assault Manning with an improve defensive line that will have career end Corey Wootton moving inside to the three-technique until further notice. Stephen Paea’s availability with his toe injury is a game-time decision but he is expected back at nose tackle after a look at “three.”
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The Bears added undrafted rookie free agent Christian Tupou to the roster in place of Nate Collins, placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL.
Undrafted rookie end Michael Bass showed flashes in the New Orleans game and could give the Bears their best pass-rush package with Shea McClellin at the other end, Wootton inside and Julius Peppers sliding inside as well.
“[Peppers] has a place to go inside if we choose to do that,” Tucker said. “He is willing to do whatever is called upon. Whatever we ask him to do we’ll do. That’s really a decision we’re monitoring and things like that. But I feel good with the guys that we have inside right now.
“Julius does play inside at times. How much and how little depends on the game plan and the flow of the game.”