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Chicago Bears: Five Keys to Beating the St. Louis Rams in Must-Win Week 12 Game

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COMMENTARY | It's been two months since the Chicago Bears won consecutive games, but that's exactly what they have a chance to do on Sunday when they visit the St. Louis Rams.

Coming off of a bye week, the Rams' last game was a 38-8 curb-stomping of the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10. That win ended their 2nd three-game skid of the season and was perhaps the most surprising result in the NFL so far this year.

Despite a 4-6 record, St. Louis has weapons on both sides of the ball, as Indy discovered the hard way. Zac Stacy is making people forget about Steven Jackson and the defensive-end duo of Robert Quinn and Chris Long has combined for 18.5 sacks. And then there's Tavon Austin, who looks at times like a young version of Devin Hester.

So what do the Bears need to do to earn a W against their Arch rivals?

Don't spot them 38 points

It's unlikely that the St. Louis Rams will go all Derek Vinyard on the Bears, but it's still not wise to let them get warmed up. In their last game, the Rams raced out of the gate with 6 unanswered scores, a veritable blitzkrieg that totally deflated the Colts.

No matter who's under center, Marc Trestman's offense can put up points. But the defense has seen better days and the injuries continue to pile up. In order to win the game, the Bears need to play mistake-free on both sides of the ball, controlling the clock and limiting big plays.

A Long afternoon

Former Oakland Raiders great and current FOX studio host Howie Long will be taking his first Sunday off in two decades to watch a football game. Of course, the fact that two of his sons will be playing against one another might have factored into that.

It's not going to get the hype of the Manning Bowl, but Kyle and Chris Long will be on opposite sides of the line on Sunday afternoon. While they won't necessarily be going head-to-head, there are sure to be plays where Chris will stunt or Kyle will pull. And when that happens, get ready for a firestorm.

The Long brother, and his unit, who does the best job of imposing his will in this game will likely walk away with a W on the scoreboard.

Keep Austin stone cold

While rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin has struggled with consistency, he looks a lot more like lightning in a skillet than a flash in the pan. Austin's freakish speed and big-play ability prompted the Rams to draft him 8th overall, but he hadn't had more than 47 receiving yards in a game through the first 9 weeks.

Austin's explosion in the Colts game, when he tallied 310 total yards (or 1.41 furlongs), represents 37% of his output on the season so far. But it's the way he scores that make Tavon Austin such a threat. He had TD receptions of 81 and 57 yards to go with a punt return TD of 98 yards.

Austin is probably drooling at the prospect of facing Chicago's depleted defensive backfield and Bears fans are just hoping Chris Conte doesn't get stuck in coverage on, or out in space with, #11. The Bears' special teams will need to be on high alert as well, as one missed tackle on a punt or kickoff could mean a quick TD.

Disciplinary action

Through the first 9 games, the Bears had not committed more than 6 penalties in a contest. Against the Ravens, however, yellow hankies flew 13 times and cost the Bears 111 yards. For a team with so many veterans out of commission, the margin for error is smaller and they can't afford to give up big chunks of yards like that.

And while the occasional hold or illegal contact is inevitable, it's imperative that the Bears avoid the kind of fouls that allow drives to continue for the other team. Such was the case when Zack Bowman pulled Torrey Smith to the ground short of a first down late in regulation. The field conditions didn't help matters, but the Bears need to play a clean game in order to win.

Bowman's penalty didn't end up costing the game for the Bears, but the same can't be said for the hit San Francisco 49ers LB Ahmad Brooks put on New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees. Brooks' arm made contact with Brees' neck, drawing a flag that cost the 9ers a fumble recovery and, eventually, the game.

Greatest show on turf

Mike Martz was the architect of one of the greatest offensive units ever built when he led the Rams in the early 2000s. Of course, Martz then proceeded to wear out his welcome in St. Louis before doing the same in Detroit and San Fran. Bears fans are trying to forget his disastrous two years in Chicago, and Jay Cutler still flinches when he hears the name of his former OC.

It's ironic that the Bears now head into the site of Martz's former glory with a potent offense of their own. Even with Josh McCown spelling Jay Cutler, the Bears have showed no signs of slowing. Jay Cutty might have a rocket launcher attached to his shoulder, but it's not as if McCown's only shooting an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

In fact, McCown was 6-of-10 on throws deeper than 10 yards downfield, including a 43-yard bomb to Martellus Bennett in OT, against the Ravens. And that was on a field that looked like a Tough Mudder obstacle. The Bears' last indoor game came in a Week 4 road loss to the Detroit Lions, so it will be interesting to see how they look this time around.

Is the season over if the Bears lose on Sunday? Well, no, not technically. But they're on the outside of the playoff race looking in right now, and they are 0-2 against the division-leading Lions. And with Detroit heavily favored over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and most of their remaining opponents as well, the Bears can't afford to fall behind.

Evan Altman is a freelance sportswriter with a wealth of trivial pop culture knowledge. He grew up in Northwest Indiana, where the Bears reign supreme. While he now lives in the heart of Colts country, you can hear his kids singing "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" every gameday.

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