The Seahawks will take on the Bears tomorrow. I shot a few questions over to Brett Solesky over at Midway Illustrated (and he returned the favor) to ask a few questions about Da Bears, a team that has surprised a lot of people by going 4-1 this season. Added bonus: don't the Bears feel quite a bit like a rivalary after the last five years? Maybe it's just because I lived in Chicago for the Seahawks and Bears Super Bowls, but it sure seems like we've followed similar paths of late. Anyway...
1) Everyone knows the story of Jay Cutler's nine first half sacks a couple of weeks ago. Was that an aberration or is the offensive line really that porous?
The offensive line yes is for the most part extremely porous, questions abound all over the field and since 2009 the Bears have used nine different starting combinations with players shifted all over the place. In some cases it's been because of injury but overall it's been because of lack of performance. The question however is did the Bears find the winning combination last week against the Panthers when Matt Forte rushed for a career high 166 yards and two touchdowns? Though that combination is already set to change with Roberto Garza out after a route knee scope and the return of Chris Williams who is rumored to be the new starting left guard.
2) How does a team stop Julius Peppers?
I honestly can't answer that question because teams have done everything they possibly can to disrupt him this season with double teams, chips, cuts, scrapes and in some cases outright holdinge pre the guy as he still forces a pressure. It seems Peppers was reading all the negative press about him getting paid and then being the next major under performing over paid player and is playing with a major chip on his shoulder. He seems determined not to want to let his teammates down or the city of Chicago down and his effort on every play reflects that. Last week the Panthers did everything to try and stop him, and the result was a career high three sacks in one game for Israel Idonije at the DE spot opposite Peppers.
3) The Bears rank 23rd in points, 27th in offensive yards, 24th in pass yards allowed, and 23rd in rush yards allowed. The stats don't make them seem like world-beaters, but they are 4-1 and standing alone atop the NFC North. What makes this team work?
Big plays at key moments, the Bears have forced three turnovers late in the fourth quarter of three of their four victories that has completely halted the momentum of the opposing offense. The Bears also lead the league in three and outs and have done a successful job of shutting teams down inside the red-zone and they're third in the league in only allowing offenses to convert 30% of their third down situations. They're also second in the league in forced turnovers, which has been their specialty in Chicago since Lovie Smith's arrival. The Bears have forced more turnovers than any other team in the league since Lovie Smith's arrival.
4) Who is the unsung hero of the 2010 Bears team? Who is overrated?
The unsung hero of the Bears right now may be a tie between second year CB/nickel back D.J. Moore and free agent pick up Tim Jennings. Both have played well thus far with Jennings supplanting Zack Bowman as the starter and playing well and tackling well in space. Moore has been equally up to the task and it's help to bring balance and stability to what was rumored to be the weak spot of the defense this year. Overrated right now would have to be free agent TE pickup Brandon Manumaleuna who the Bears spent $15-million-dollars on to be a major blocking contributor within the Martz offense this year. Over four games Manumaleuna had been a complete bust and was getting beat up out there on an island in pass protection and doing a lot of blocking blades of grass in run situations. Coincidentally though he had his best game last week against the Panthers, so Bears fans are hoping he has back to back solid performances.
5) What (or who) about the Seahawks is making a Bears fan feel uneasy at 11:59 CST this Sunday?
I think Bears fans are pretty full of themselves and a little drunk on victory Kool-Aid right now. I don't think anyone was expecting this team to win games over the Cowboys and the Packers and even with the poor performance against the Giants two weeks ago, Bears fans are for the most part confident in beating the Seahawks. Cutler returns this week and Forte got the running game going last week so Bears fans are optimistic heading into this game. Plus Cutler also seems to play his best during the day at home. All that being said Bears fans COMPLETELY recognize where the weaknesses of this team are, that primarily being a lack of an offensive line. The offensive line has not done anything to protect Jay Cutler very well and he's had to scramble around and make more plays with his feet than Bears fans would rather prefer to forget. Bears fans are likely worried about someone getting a clean shot on Cutler and ending his season with a second concussion in as many games played for their franchise QB.