Moon: How do Bears slow Brady, beat Patriots?

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Moon: How do Bears slow Brady, beat Patriots?

Friday, Dec. 10, 2010
Posted: 9:46 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Every game turns on a small handful of plays or factors. Here are the three that will decide the Bears-New England Patriots game Sunday:

1. Blunt Brady

If the Bears can't fully stop Tom Brady, recent history says they stand a better-than-most chance of containing him, at least partially, and that may enough.

The Bears have held nine of the 10 "regular" starting quarterbacks they've faced this season to a passer rating below that quarterback's season average. Only Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck was better than his average. The Chicago defense has allowed an average passer rating of just 71.1 while Jay Cutler has been passing at a career-best 92.8. Only the Green Bay Packers (69.6) have been better at stopping passers.

Why that opposing quarterback rating matters in this case is because the only two teams to defeat the New England Patriots (New York Jets, Cleveland Browns) were responsible for two of Brady's three lowest passer ratings of the season and his two lowest completion percentages.

Brady hasn't thrown an interception in seven games, so blunting him is far, far easier schemed than done, particularly since only four teams have given up fewer sacks than the Patriots. But with a vulnerable defense, Brady is the absolute point of the New England spear with his own personal ball-control program built around completing 66.8 percent of his passes.

It is not a spear that lives with deep thrusts in the Martz downfield tradition. The Patriots average 11.8 yards; the Bears by comparison average 12.4. But Brady has thrown 385 passes and only four of them were intercepted vs. 27 going for touchdowns.

"That's why he's got all those Super Bowl rings," said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. "He doesn't make many mistakes."
2. Stay the course

The change in offensive philosophy from pass-first to balanced has been the biggest single key to the makeover of the Bears' season, from a stretch of losing three of four to reeling off five straight victories. The commitment to running the ball has helped bring the offensive line together and, if not necessarily reducing the sack total down to acceptable levels, has taken a huge chunk of pressure off Cutler.

The Bears are 7-0 this season when they rush for 100 yards. All three of their losses have come when they've rushed for few 75 yards, regardless of attempts or average per carry.

Their play-calling has been nearly 50-50 run-pass over the last five games. Cutler has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in three wins in the five-game run and, most important, has thrown 10 touchdown passes vs. three interceptions.

"It starts at the top with Mike Martz," Cutler said. "He does a good job in meetings of keeping guys positive and keeping them on point with the system and believing in it and showing guys examples on tape of how the system works -- if we do it right, what would happen.

"And guys got it. There were glimpses of it on tape, and guys understood if we completely got everything down that we could be explosive. Are we there yet? Not yet, but we're definitely on our way."

The problem with New England, however, is that no defensive schemer is better at forcing players, coaches and teams out of what they want to do than Bill Belichick. He has done it to Martz in the past and one dangerous scenario for the Bears would be Belichick completely shutting down the Chicago run game to the point where Martz and Cutler become impatient and risk turnovers in search of big plays, particularly if they believe they cannot afford their balanced game plan in the face of some quick New England points.

The Bears are 6-1 when they have had an edge in time of possession, a normally meaningless statistic if only looked at in terms of minutes and seconds. But every minute that the Chicago offense is on the field, New England's is not. It is a course Martz needs to stay on more than against any opponent to date this season.
3. Take the points
The Bears are 8-1 when they have scored 18 or more points. Only once this season (in Detroit) have they scored touchdowns on every possession reaching inside the red zone but they have won four of the five times that they have scored points of some sort.

The temptation may arise to press for touchdowns when facing a scoring offense like New England's, and when dealing with a defense like the 2010 Patriots which is 18th in points allowed and among the NFL's worst against the pass.

The Patriots committed three turnovers in the losses both to the Jets and Browns, accounting for two-thirds of New England's entire 2010 turnover total. Only three teams have taken the ball away more than the Bears' 26. The defense is tasked with adding to the New England turnover total and the offense and special teams need to turn every freebie into points and avoid point-less gambles.

"We have to be detailed to combat Tom Brady and the Patriots," said linebacker Lance Briggs. "We have to play fast and physical. We know he's going to take what defenses give him. He's going to take what he sees. We have to be ready when that ball does come out, we have to punish ball carriers and be opportunistic when that ball is in the air and get pressure on him."

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.

Complete Bears-49ers coverage on CSN

Complete Bears-49ers coverage on CSN

The Bears try to get a third win in 2016 when they host the 49ers, and CSN has you covered.

Check out a schedule of Sunday's events:

— Meijer Bears Pregame Live with Lance Briggs, Alex Brown, Jim Miller and Chris Boden airs at 11 a.m. on CSN.

— Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Bears Halftime Live streaming live on CSNChicago.com and ChicagoBears.com.

— State Farm Bears Postgame Live airing immediately after the game on CSN.

Important Twitter follows:

— John "Moon" Mullin (@CSNMoonMullin), CSNChicago

— Bears Talk (@CSNBears), CSNChicago

— Kip Lewis (@CSNKipLewis), CSNChicago

— Chris Boden (@CSNBoden), CSNChicago

The 3 Bears necessities for win No. 3

The 3 Bears necessities for win No. 3

Insert title of this "Bowl" game here...

Two teams. Three wins combined. December. So much for holiday cheer. The snow may provide a certain Christmas element on the lakefront Sunday. But something different has to happen for the Bears defensively. In their spirit of giving, the 49ers have allowed a league-high 76 points off their turnovers. Problem is, the Bears have just eight of them in eleven games. If that San Francisco generosity doesn't change – either by Vic Fangio's defense finally making plays despite the core of their defense missing, or by the visitors finding a way to protect the ball in those conditions after practicing in Orlando all week – it's a golden chance for the Bears to gain a smidge of momentum before becoming a factor in the division race (because they face all three other NFC North contenders in their final four games).

1. Read zone read

Colin Kaepernick has grown much more comfortable with time in Chip Kelly's offense. He had the Dolphins hanging on for dear life until the clock struck zero last week. He became just the sixth quarterback in league history to pass for three touchdowns in a game while rushing for over 100 (no, Bobby Douglass isn't one). The challenge becomes greater minus the talented inside linebacker tandem of Danny Trevathan (injury) and Jerrell Freeman (suspension). It becomes even greater if Leonard Floyd's quickness and speed is taken away as a shadowing option as he recovers from being carried off the field on a flat board two weeks ago. He's listed as questionable. So that makes it imperative for inside replacements John Timu and Nick Kwiatkowski to find a way to be instinctive while remaining disciplined enough to contain the league's best rushing quarterback by yards per attempt (8.1).

2. Don't stray from the run

Give this Niners defense without NoVorro Bowman and Eric Reid enough opportunities to be gashed, and they'll let you. Too many times the pregame formula has been for Jordan Howard to get the ball, only to find reasons not to – whether it's looking at the clock while trailing by double digits, too much traffic at the line of scrimmage or panic after injuries up front (to name a few). The 172 rushing yards per game allowed by San Francisco is the worst in eight years (Detroit).  Howard's 5.14 average gain per attempt is fifth in the NFL. Enough said.

3. Catch the ball!!!

Okay, Marquess, Josh and Deonte. Okay, Cam, Jordan and Jeremy. Okay Daniel (and/or Eddie?). We know conditions might be a little slick if it's snowing/sleeting/raining. You're supposed to be among the best in the world at what you do, even if you're down the original depth chart. Can you get your mitts on the football and hang on to it this week? Help your guy Matt out a little bit? After all, if you cut last week's nightmare in half, and maybe you're shooting for (oooh!) a fourth win Sunday, not a third.

Get set for Sunday's noon kickoff at 11 a.m. on CSN as ex-Bears Jim Miller, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Chris on "Bears Preagme Live." Then as soon as the second quarter ends, come back here to CSNChicago.com, where Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments. And finally, when the game goes final on Fox, switch immediately back to CSN as Chris and the three former Bears give you 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, live press conferences and locker room interviews on "Bears Postgame Live."