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3 keys for Bears to beat Bengals and final score prediction originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Bears had a bunch of ugly plays in Week 1 against the Rams, from busted coverages to 4th-down failures, and ended up getting blown out 34-14. But it wasn’t all bad. The offense moved the ball well throughout the game, converting 24 first downs. David Montgomery looked like a beast, and Justin Fields was equally impressive in his limited playing time.
In Week 2, the Bengals come to town, and despite Cincinnati’s 4-11-1 record last season, it won’t be a cake walk to the Bears’ first win. The Bengals did a great job limiting the Vikings’ star-studded offense, while putting points up themselves in their Week 1 upset victory. So if the Bears want to get into the victory column, they’ll need to both build upon their successes and clean up their glaring mistakes.
“BE SMARTER” ON DEFENSE AND FINISH THE PLAY
The No. 1 most jarring aspect of the Bears’ loss was the defensive breakdowns against the Rams’ explosive offense. Per defensive coordinator Sean Desai, there were two or three coverage breakdowns, and eight plays where the Bears missed a tackle with a total of 12 missed tackles. The Rams exploited those mistakes, and the Bengals have the talent to do the same thing. Ja’Marr Chase already showed why the Bengals made him the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, and Joe Burrow’s roster of weapons includes exciting second-year player Tee Higgins and reliable target Tyler Boyd. On the ground, Joe Mixon led all NFL rushers with 127 yards and 29 carries, too.
To clean up the mistakes, veteran linebacker Alec Ogletree simply said the defense needs to “be smarter.” Now they have to show it in Week 2.
RATCHET UP PASS RUSH
There is simply too much talent in the front seven for the Bears to only register four QB hits throughout the game. Khalil Mack was held to one tackle, with no QB hits. Sure, Mack drew double teams and chips from tight ends. There were some one-on-one’s he had where the Rams ran quick passing routes to help neutralize his effect on the game, too. But there were other one-on-one opportunities for Mack that he simply didn’t win. Going forward, he’ll need to maximize on every one of those opportunities to help his secondary, and to put the defense in more favorable positions. On the other side of the coin, if the secondary can’t cover their assignments for more than a few seconds, the guys who are paid to get after the quarterback have a much tougher time doing their jobs. It doesn’t matter how the Bears find a way to affect the opposing quarterback. They simply need to find a way to do it.
“It’s all about timing. From my end, we’ve got to do a better job of trying to get him going. And from a coverage perspective and a schematic perspective, we’ve got to be tighter. Sacks become a function of rush and coverage. There is not many people that are free-winning on the first move in this league and if they are, you’re talking to the O-line coach on that side of the ball and they’re saying the same thing— that it was a mistake.” - Sean Desai
CHALLENGE BENGALS DOWNFIELD
This is kind of cheating, since it was a key last week, but it bears repeating. Last season the Bears were eighth-worst in the NFL with only 42 passing plays that went for 20 yards or more. They were even worse with 40+ yard plays. The team only connected on three of those explosive plays all year, which tied for dead-last in the league along with the Patriots. To help in that regard, Ryan Pace brought in several speedsters who are capable of taking the top off of any defense, including Marquise Goodwin, Damiere Byrd and Breshad Perriman. But in Week 1, the team only completed one pass that traveled more than 10 yards. They only attempted one pass that traveled more than 15 yards, Andy Dalton’s interception in the back of the endzone.
Matt Nagy made it clear that nothing Dalton did, or didn’t do, affected the team’s ability to hit on big plays. One part was protection breakdowns. On several snaps it looked like the Bears had an explosive play cooking, but the offensive line allowed pressure, ruining the play. The Bengals field a great defensive line, too, so that challenge will persist. Another reason explaining the lack of explosiveness was the zone defense the Rams played to specifically limit big plays. The Bengals on the other hand play much more man-to-man coverage, which should open up more deep ball opportunities, and the Bears will need to take advantage of that. Hitting on one or two big plays can completely change the complexion of a drive, or—as the Rams proved last week— it can completely change the complexion of a game.
“We want to make sure that we are stretching the field vertically, and we weren’t able to get that as much. And we kinda knew going into it it was gonna be one of those types of games. That’s just one of those deals where we want to, moving forward, try to do everything we can to keep defenses honest going downfield.” - Matt Nagy
In the end, I believe the defense does tighten up, and the Bears do find the endzone more on Sunday. They get in the win column, but it won’t be easy.
Bears: 24, Bengals: 21
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