While victory is certainly obtainable against an average Tampa Bay team, the win will not come easy. The Bucs have one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans and harbor an elite defensive front. Chicago will need to correct their multitude of mistakes from opening weekend to get to a steady 1-1 record through two weeks.
Let’s break down the five keys to a Bears Week 2 win:
Have success in the short passing game
As reviled as offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s offensive scheme is, the Bears have little choice but to rely on it again in Week 2. The Buccaneers have a ferocious defensive line that features the likes of defensive tackle Vita Vea and outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, and Chicago’s offensive line doesn’t stand much of a chance in keeping them at bay. Getting the ball out of Fields’ hands quickly will be integral to the Bears’ success Sunday.
The offense will utilize slants, screens and dig routes to provide a clean throwing window shortly after the snap. Getsy should have installed some more concepts in his call sheet after a traumatizing Week 1 loss to Green Bay and throw in some designed quarterback rollouts and runs. Moving the pocket on a rollout will give Fields’ time to launch a ball downfield should the opportunity present itself, and a designed run will do wonders in opening up the ground and passing game.
Fields trusting his receivers and hitting medium to deep throws
Short passes will be the bountiful well the offense relies on, but throwing darts down the field for big chunk yardage is the next level the offense needs to get to. Chicago may not call many deep-to-intermediate passing plays against such a stellar Tampa Bay defensive front, but the club needs to succeed on the plays that are called. If the offense is too one-note and throws the ball within 10 yards on every play, Bucs head coach Todd Bowles will adjust his defense to stack the box and clog all the quick throwing lanes.
Stretching out the defense and making Bowles respect the Bears’ vertical passing game is the way to prevent a one-dimensional offense. Chicago will lure the defense to sleep with a short run on one play, a quick slant on another… then, all of the sudden, Fields makes a hard play-action fake, rolls out as the pocket moves with him, sets his feet, and hits DJ Moore for a deep completion for 40 yards.
To have success on the deep shots, QB1 will need to come into his own and throw with timing and confidence. The All-22 tape made it clear that, while the offense fell apart at every level last week, Fields was definitely part of the problem. There were several instances where a receiver popped open in the soft spot of a coverage and the star passed declined to throw the ball. His newfound hesitance may be attributed to the offense’s focus on short throws rather than giving equal attention to deeper passing concepts in training camp, but the fact of the matter is the signal-caller needs to show his growth as a passer.
The deeper passing concepts don’t need to be called often, but it needs to be executed perfectly when it is called.
Rely on the blitz to pressure Bucs QB Mayfield
Chicago has the chance to rectify a crippling mistake in Week 1 and help a meandering defensive line with added pressure. Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams was shockingly inept in his defensive play calling and adjustments (a topic that will be addressed later), abandoning a struggling defensive line to get killed by a marginally better Packers offensive line. That sort of coaching malpractice is simply unacceptable and cannot happen again against Tampa Bay.
The Bears will need to dial up the heat on the Bucs offense early and often Sunday. Tampa Bay’s offense doesn’t have the unbreakable Tom Brady running the show anymore; journeyman quarterback Baker Mayfield is behind center now. Though his hearty play in Week 1 against the Vikings was admirable, Chicago’s defense should be more than enough to overwhelm him. Expect the defense to send pressure from every position; the linebackers will be launched right into the heart of the offensive line and a cornerback or safety will be deployed from an unexpected angle in an attempt to either sack Mayfield or get him to make a costly mistake.
Help CB Kyler Gordon's replacement in coverage
As if the Bears’ deflating loss to the Packers in Week 1 wasn’t enough, promising second-year cornerback Kyler Gordon was placed on IR and is expected to miss at least four weeks after suffering a hand injury. With Josh Blackwell doubtful with a hamstring injury, the team needs to find Gordon’s replacement at nickel, be it Jaylon Jones or Greg Stroman Jr., and the defense will need to help the position as much as possible.
Chicago faces a much greater challenge at the opposing receiver position this week, which should only give the fans more anxiety considering the Bears defense gave up 8.5 yards per pass play against a much worse Packers receiving corp. Tampa Bay luckily does not have the same potent run game Green Bay has, so the Bears defense should be able to make stopping the pass a priority.
Starting cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Tyrique Stevenson will have their hands full covering Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and Gordon’s substitute at nickel cornerback will need help. Expect Chicago to roll over Eddie Jackson or Jaquan Brisker to give support over the top. That will mean the safety duo will refrain from coming up to the line of scrimmage to stop the run, but the Bears’ front should do fine in that regard.
Evans and Godwin are perennial Pro-Bowlers, so they’ll undoubtedly make some plays. If the defense keeps their impact at a minimum, however, Chicago can come out of Week 2 with a win.
Have a much better game plan for both sides of the ball
This entry may be the most crucial, important aspect of the game that needs to happen for the Bears to get a victory. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams will not coach in Sunday’s game due to personal reasons, and head coach Matt Eberflus will take over defensive play calling duties. The defense may benefit from the defensive-minded Eberflus calling the plays, but it remains to be seen how different the defense will look.
On offense, Getsy must bring a more dynamic and professional scheme to the table. That “scheme,” if that’s what they called it in Week 1, was almost unbelievably terrible. Last week’s All-22 film displayed poor coaching, failure to cater to the players’ strengths and losing football. That goes for both sides of the ball. Getsy and Eberflus must bring a sound plan into Week 2 and be willing to be fluid in adjusting to the Bucs’ game plan. If they don’t, general manager Ryan Poles may soon look to replace the two coaches.