Bears vs Cowboys: Keys to the Game
1. Slow down the Cowboys Running Game:
-The Bears have just been atrocious against the run this year, and those struggles are probably the biggest reason why the Bears aren’t in firm control of the NFC North. While you would like to think that the Bears can really stop the Cowboys rushing attack, the reality is that isn’t going to happen. Chicago hasn’t given up fewer than 120 rushing yards since week 5, and has given up over 500 rushing yards in these past two weeks combined. The Cowboys, despite not having a great runner are a lock for over 100 yards rushing in this game, the key for the Bears is to hold them under 150 (and hopefully 250) yards on the ground. The Bears should be able to get it done though, as the Cowboys lost their number 2 running back Lance Dunbar on Thanksgiving for the rest of the year and were 27th in the league in rushing yards entering this weekend. DeMarco Murray has shown flashes of brilliance, and has a 4.9 yard per carry average, but just hasn’t been consistent enough for Dallas. The Cowboys will typically abandon the run early if it’s not working which is why Murray’s total numbers are down. If Chicago can slow down the Cowboys running game early, Dallas may move away from the idea of having a balanced attack.
2. Attack the Cowboys Secondary:
-Brandon Carr has been solid for Dallas, but outside of him there is little to get excited about in their secondary. This is the type of game that Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery should both have big games. Despite not having their starting quarterback the Bears should get aggressive in this game and attack the Cowboys down the field more. Few teams have the defensive back talent to slow or stop Marshall and Jeffery and the Cowboys clearly aren’t one of them. If the Bears can hit some big plays early on, it should open up the ground game and Forte/Bennett in the short area as Dallas will be forced to play back. This should be a strong game for the Bears passing attack and definitely should end with over 300 yards through the air.
3. Get Matt Forte Involved Early and Often:
–Matt Forte is one of the best all-around backs in the NFL, and the Bears are getting him the touches he needs this season where people are really taking notice. This is a favorable match-up for Forte, both as a runner and a receiver. The Cowboys are 30th in the league in rushing yards allowed per carry with a 4.8 average and Forte should take advantage of that. He needs a good 20+ carries in this game and should have his third 100 yard game of the season. He should also find plenty of room to maneuver when he’s out running routes as well. The Cowboys have had some issues this year covering backs out of the backfield, and Forte would be one of their toughest challenges. Overall the Bears should be looking to get the ball in Forte’s hands 25+ times this game, and should expect to see over 150 yards of combined production.
4. Win the Special Teams Battle:
-Most weeks the Bears have the advantage in the Special Teams department with a quality kicker, good coverage unit and dynamic return game. The Cowboys though have one of the best special teams units in the league with even a better coverage unit and kicker/punter than the Bears. While Dwayne Harris isn’t Devin Hester, he’s been great this year with multiple huge returns. There is a chance that Harris doesn’t play in this game, which would be huge, but he did return to practice the other day. The Bears can’t afford any mistakes on special teams with either a blocked kick/punt or a allowing a big return if they want to win this game. On top of preventing mistakes, Chicago needs Hester to come up with some nice returns to help them win the field position battle.
5. Get Consistent Pressure on Tony Romo:
-This is easier said then done, as the Bears have struggled to get consistent pressure on quarterbacks this season, but it’s something they need to go their way if they are to have a chance to win this football game. On top of the Bears struggles to get after the quarterback, they are facing a veteran quarterback in Tony Romo, who is pretty good at avoiding sacks and buying time. Romo is one of the tougher quarterbacks to get to, but when you do he really struggles and his production plummets. According to Pro Football Focus, Romo has completed just 47.8% of his passes when under pressure, and has a 65.5 rating. Compare that to his 72.2% completion rate and 111.5 QB rating when not pressured and it is clear that the Bears needs to bring the heat. Ideally that pressure will come from the front four and won’t need much in the way of additional blitzing. Romo is very strong at recognizing where the blitz is coming from and throwing to the vacated spot. If the Bears can get after Romo with their front four they could have a shot at another multiple turnover game for Romo like they saw a year ago.