Ryan Bukowiecki is a student at the Illinois Media School and a contributor to The D & Davis Show
The Chicago Bears had a tough Week 1 loss and should have beat the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons, in all likelihood.
As another week dawns, the opponent once again comes from the NFC South and does not get much easier at all. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a popular pick as a breakout team to make the playoffs and make some noise.
Last year the Bucs found themselves just outside the playoffs, victims of tiebreak rules, and only seemed to improve this off-season. Of course their success or failure will come down to the development of Jameis Winston at quarterback.
Tampa did not play in Week 1 due to Hurricane Irma causing mass evacuation of Florida and that hurts the Bears as the Bucs have game tape on the Bears but not the other way around. The NFL can be very unforgiving and for the Bears it already feels that way with the injury losses of Jerrell Freeman and Kevin White.
Alas, here are the four goals for the Bears this week against the Buccaneers.
Force a turnover, defensive line — The Bears defense acquitted themselves well last week against a high powered Falcons offense. The front seven was really good and held the Falcons rush to only 64 yards, a true surprise seeing as all-pro Atlanta reciever Julio Jones was quiet also.
Without a couple of breakdowns on throws to tight end Austin Hooper, the Bears may have completely shut down the Falcons offense all together.
A huge part of that was the front seven getting pressure and owning the line of scrimmage. Matt Ryan is a tough QB to sack because he does not hold the ball and he makes smart reads, so don’t be fooled by the lack of sacks from last week. The secondary had two chances to intercept Ryan but they weren’t able to come up with the ball.
That is the goal this week. Starting with pressure up front, the defense has to find a way to create a turnover or two. Jameis Winston has committed 42 turnovers in his only two seasons as a starter. The Bucs offensive line gave up the fifteenth most sacks last season and have brought back four of the five starters on their line.
Tampa’s offense has a lot of weapons and with the possibility of the Bears struggling on offense, the Bears defensive line has to force or help force a turnover. If not then this game could turn into a blowout real quick, unless the Bears offense has something up their sleeve.
A receiver (besides Cohen) needs to step up — Blazing from out the backfield in his first NFL start, Tarik Cohen was a great option at wideout as well with his speed and good hands, but teams must already know that if they take Cohen away then the Bears may not have another playmaking option in the passing game.
Losing both Cameron Meredith and Kevin White for the season really hurts an already weak wide receiver core. Now the question is what receiver steps up to make plays, if any. At wide out it seems Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton will get the first cracks at standing out.
However, Wheaton still may not be ready to go this week since he was limited in practice both on Wednesday and Thursday. Another option could be tight end Zack Miller but Miller has had a lot of injuries in the past and to rely on him long term would be a misstep.
Miller will definitely be a key this week though, and the other player I am looking at is Wright, who is the only healthy proven player on the roster at wide out (not that that is saying much). There is also a possibility we see something from Adam Shaheen but he is still raw and learning. Shaheen does posses the physical skills that are intriguing for a receiving TE and he, in theory, is understanding the offense more and more each week.
One more option is more throws to Dion Sims at TE. Sims is not known as a receiver but he was effective in Game 1. The goal is for a receiver anywhere on this roster to step up and make some plays, otherwise it could be a long day for the Bears offense in regards to stretching the field.
Keep running the rock — The Bears had 125 yards on just 19 carries in Week 1, really good stuff. It continues the conversation of why offensive coordinator Darryl Loggains does not try to run the ball more but either way the Bears have to run the ball this week against Tampa.
Running the ball means controlling the clock and effective running means the other team’s offense is on the sideline. This Bucs offense is really dynamic with its weapons and with former OC Dirk Koetter running the show.
The Bears offense may struggle to score touchdowns if a receiver doesn’t step up so they have to take care of the ball and control the clock. Easiest way to do that –run the ball. The Bears best playmakers are at the running back position as well, give them the ball. On top of that, Tampa gave up 117.2 yards on the ground last year.
If the O-line can keep blocking well, then there may be an opportunity for the Bears to dominate time of possession.
Coaching and game planning — This will be an emotional game for the Buccaneers and their fans after going through Hurricane Irma. Combine that with the fact that the Bucs will have game tape that the Bears will not and the Bears are not as talented to a man as this Bucs team: coaching will have to be the difference if the Bears can find a way to steal one on the road.
Offensively, Darryl Loggains has to make a game plan that compliments the defense by controlling the clock and the ball. Loggains and Tampa prodigal son, QB Mike Glennon, will need to generate some big plays somewhere along the way that set up touchdowns, not field goals.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has to get after Winston before he can get the ball to all the playmakers he has on the field’s edge and the defense must find a way to create turnovers. The main goal for this week is to get the team ready to play even with all the injury questions surrounding key positions. Also the team has to be able to make the play calls that can put them in advantageous positions.
It will be an uphill climb in this game and we will learn a lot about this Bears so far, be it win, lose or tie.
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