By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
It’s been a long wait for more Chicago Bears action after the 48-10 victory over the Buccaneers in Week 4.
While that win was something in which the Bears left us wanting more in a good way, they’re going to have to watch out from a bye week hangover Sunday that could leave the team in search of more in the worst way against the Miami Dolphins.
An early bye week this season was in many ways welcome given the Bears’ busy preseason, which included 5 games instead of the typical 4. If there’s a chance it could affect the mojo of a young team who’s hoping to extend a current 3-game win streak you likely won’t get much agreement from the defense.
Chicago’s defense has reason to be confident in itself as it has gotten better week after week. The offense hasn’t had the same success, but things may be rounding into form for that group after their breakout performance against the Bucs.
Miami lies ahead as a bit of a surprise team, having got off to a surprise start by going 3-0, but they’ve since been brought back down to earth after losing big on the road in a “prove it” game against the Patriots in week 4, then last week they blew a 17-point lead late into the third quarter on the road against the Bengals. The Dolphins are hoping some home cooking will be the remedy this week against the Bears.
This Dolphins team is largely an unknown, coming into the year they had very little name recognition and so far they have been very opportunistic in getting to their winning record. The Bears will have to take care of all the little things and be opportunistic themselves to get a win this week. Let’s take a look at the four goals for the Bears in their Week 6 match-up.
Take Care of the Ball — Every team in the NFL emphasizes the same thing every week — take care of the ball. This will be especially true this week for the Bears because the Dolphins’ defense has been very opportunistic. Miami currently leads the league in interceptions with 10, that side of the defense overall playing better than its offense.
The Bears will be the favorite in this game despite being on the road but the easiest way for the Bears to lose their advantage will be by throwing the ball around recklessly. If Mitch Trubisky can take care of the football and not allow any extra possessions for Miami, then the Bears will be in a great position to win this game.
Ramp Up the Heat — The Miami Dolphins have problems on their offensive line as they are missing some of their main guys on the interior. Both starting guard Josh Sitton and starting center Daniel Kilgore have been lost for the year to injuries.
Then last week, starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil got a concussion and is still in the protocol with his status uncertain for Sunday. With a healthy O-line the Bears are a scary front, with Miami’s unit suffering as it is this week sounds like a potential teeing off. The Bears’ front seven must make their presence known in this game, they don’t have an excuse not to.
Getting into the backfield often brings good things and that should be a highlighted factor this week — Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill currently has the second worst passer rating in the NFL under pressure at just 21.1. In total, Tannehill has four fumbles and five interceptions this season. Already an established strength on the team, if the Bears’ front seven shows up then opportunities to ruin Tannehill and the Dolphins’ day on offense will be in abundance.
Keep Things Simple — Besides intercepting the ball, the Dolphins defense is not exceptional in any category except redone scoring, they are giving up just 41.2 percent red zone scoring when an opposing team enters the red zone. Meanwhile, the Bears have struggled most as an offense while in the red zone and are just 15th in red zone scoring percentage in the League.
The key for the Bears all year long will be their ability to score and specifically score touchdowns. The Bears should have their pick on how to attack the Dolphins since Miami hasn’t been great against the run or pass. Another positive thing going for the Bears is that the Dolphins are third worst as a team at getting sacks with eight so far.
When Mitch is comfortable in the pocket then good things usually happen. If the Bears can establish the run game and hit some big pass plays then they should find success as a group on Sunday.
Weather the Invisible Storm — The conditions are expected to be hot and humid in Miami this Sunday. Miami isn’t considered a tough place to play because its a warm weather city but it is sneakily one of the tougher places to play at certain points of the season. As the weather changed in Chicago during the week off the Bears are going to have their conditioning tested by once again having to deal with summer-like heat and humidity.
Sometimes even with proper hydration cramping can still be an issue when you aren’t used to playing, or thought you were done playing in tropical weather.
The coaches will have to do their part and do what they can with the rotations to keep fresh bodies and legs out on the field. While its very possible that the South Florida elements will not bother the Bears at all, at the same time having a week off from football then coming back to play in a tough environment could wind up being a big story-line on Monday.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR