When the Bears get ready for their Week 3 matchup against the Texans, they may as well be looking into a mirror. These are two organizations that are in similar situations, run similar schemes, and want to win in the same ways. Matt Eberflus believes that could help the offense get back on track, since they’ve practiced against a similar scheme all summer. On the other side, Alan Williams isn’t worried about the Texans offense having an advantage against his squad. He’ll have the defense prepared to do what they do, regardless of the Texans’ familiarity.
Just like the Bears, the Texans want to lean on their run game, are led by a second-year quarterback, and don't have any household names at wide receiver besides their No. 1 option Brandin Cooks.
Let’s start with quarterback Davis Mills. Just like Justin Fields, the plan was for Mills to sit and learn behind Tyrod Taylor last season. Just like Fields, Mills was pressed into duty early when Taylor injured himself in Week 2. Despite the Texans’ poor 2-9 record when Mills started last year, there was a lot to like about his rookie season. He completed passes at a high rate, averaged 228 passing yards per game, and threw 16 touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions. There was hope Mills could take the next step this year, but his performances have been a bit of a mixed bag in 2022. In Week 1, Mills was able to throw accurately on the run, and was effective on play-action passes. He also showed fearlessness in the pocket to step into pressure to make a throw, knowing he was going to take a big shot right after. Mills’ playmaking helped the Texans come away with a tie against the Colts. In Week 2, Mills had trouble overcoming pressure from the Broncos defense. Not only did he struggle more with his accuracy, Mills fumbled the ball twice on sacks. Each time the Texans managed to recover the football, but in each case the fumble ended up as a drive killer.
In the passing game, the Texans lean on Brandin Cooks to lead the way. He’s gotten double-digit targets in each of their games, and leads the team with 11 receptions. Beyond that, the Texans lean on an assortment of players to fill in the rest of the receiving work. They use three tight ends in all parts of the field: O.J. Howard, Pharaoh Brown and Brevin Jordan. Those three guys have combined for 10 catches, 94 yards and two touchdowns. They also target running back Rex Burkhead in the passing game quite a bit, and Burkhead ranks second on the team with seven catches.
Again, like the Bears the Texans want their offense to flow through their running game. Unlike the Bears, their running game has been largely ineffective. Rookie Dameon Pierce was a preseason darling with his powerful running style. His impressive performances in the exhibition contests gave the Texans enough confidence to move forward with just Pierce and Burkhead in the backfield, and they surprisingly cut lead back Marlon Mack. However, both Pierce and Burkhead have averaged less than four yards per carry this season.
Bears fans of the past 20 years remember Lovie Smith’s defense from his stint with Chicago. Newer fans only have to take a look at what Matt Eberflus has installed to get a pretty good idea of what it’s all about. Both men deploy a scheme from Tony Dungy’s Tampa-2 family tree. Smith’s defenses really lean into the “bend don’t break” mentality. The Texans right now rank 31st in yards allowed, but tied for ninth in points allowed.
Like the Bears, the Texans are starting two rookies selected with top-50 picks in their secondaries. Derek Stingley Jr. gets most of the attention, since he was the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft. Like Kyler Gordon, Stingley has been picked on to start his career. He’s been targeted 24 times, and has surrendered 14 catches for 181 yards. Then, there’s No. 37 overall pick Jalen Pitre. The Texans use Pitre as a box safety, in practically the same role as Jaquan Brisker. Pitre played slot and even some linebacker in college and is expected to be a tackling machine in the back end of Houston’s defense.
In the middle, the Texans field linebackers Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill. Kirksey is a familiar foe from his season with the Packers in 2020. Grugier-Hill got his first chance to be a full-time starter last season, and responded with his first 100-tackle season. They’ve played well against the run so far, with Grugier-Hill racking up 18 tackles in Week 1 alone. Kirksey has contributed takeaways, too, with one fumble recovery and one interception on the year.
Things start up front for the Texans defense, though, and veteran defensive end Jerry Hughes has been the man creating the most havoc. He’s in his 13th NFL season, but appears as destructive as ever with two sacks, one TFL, a forced fumble and an interception, already. Jonathan Greenard works opposite Hughes, and Rasheem Green rotates in as well. Those two guys have combined for 2.5 sacks and four TFLs. The tackles Maliek Collins and Roy Lopez aren’t as explosive as the ends, and opposing offenses have taken advantage by running into the middle of the line.
How to watch Bears vs. Texans
GAME TIME: The Bears’ Week 3 game against the Texans will be played on Sunday, Sept. 25, at Soldier Field. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. CT.
TV: Texans-Bears will air on CBS. Andrew Catalon (play-by-play), James Lofton (analyst) and Michael Grady (sideline) will be on the call.
For more information on the Texans vs. Bears matchup click here.
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