Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010
By Jim Miller
The Patriots come to town averaging over 29.3 points a game on the road, while the Bears average only 21.8 points on their home turf - we'll get to that turf in a bit.
It is impressive what the New England Patriots offense has been putting on tape recently. They went into Pittsburgh four weeks ago and lit up the Steelers top-5 defense by scoring 39 points. Two weeks later, the Pats traveled to Detroit and scored 42 points in the second half alone.
A victory for the Bears will come down to critical tackling and turnovers. The Bears defense cannot have missed tackles - which cost them early in Detroit - because defending the Patriots short-pass game will be the key to victory.
Another key in this marquee matchup will be Jay Cutler managing the weather, turf and keeping pace with a Patriot offense that logs long drives which normally finishing with a score.
At no point in the season is the running game more paramount for the Bears, they must churn the clock, sustaining drives keeping the Patriots offense cold and snowy on the sideline. I hope to see a lot of run "check with me packages" where, at the line of scrimmage, Jay checks to the best run play to attack the defense presented.
It's all about in the box numbers, where they are favorable, is where you attack. These may change and should challenge Mike Martz because if weather forecasts hold true, "Heavy" personnel sets favor the Bears. Heavy is normally deployed in goal line or short yardage situations. Football is a game of force and the Bears have the personnel to pound the Pats, if Mike Martz is up for the challenge.
If I am Lovie Smith, I may activate all four tight ends. The Patriots will react by going to four defensive lineman, which Bill Belichick has done in the past. Problem is, they do not have the numbers to do so, DL Mike Wright is injured and they are paper thin up front. If the Pats elect to stick with a 3-4, "Heavy" personnel would obliterate the Patriots.
Where has Astro turf gone? The glory days of Walter Payton leaping over the pile at the one-yard line because he could get a solid grip, with his classic Kagaroos, are over!
I have repeatedly stated my case, the Bears are a team that is built for speed - by design - under Lovie Smith. If you are racing horses, would you ever want your multimillion dollar Kentucky Derby thouroughbred running through mud that slows him down?
Jay has a great point, but it is what it is. Soldier field hardens up in late December, due to the cold, which gives the Bears an advantage. I believe this game comes down to a field goal and Robbie Gould has the edge over Shayne Graham. I've witnessed it too many times: opposing kickers get psyched out kicking in Soldier Field with the conditions.
Even Tom Brady will have problems with the Bears defense. Jay needs to lead the Bears to the scoreboard first and apply consistent pressure along with working the clock.
He has been savvy, aware of his situations the last four weeks. This is the opportune time, to take it to another level.
I reveled in my opportunity to beat the great Peyton Manning of the Colts in 1999. Trust me, Jay is welcoming this opportunity to show the country how he compares to Brady.
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.