TRUBear is Back!
QB1 Mitchell Trubisky has returned. He is practicing without limitations to his throwing shoulder. His Chicago Bears (8-4) are preparing to #beardown against the red-hot Rams (11-1) on Sunday Night Football at a frigid Soldier Field. Los Angeles is now only a three-point favorite according to Yahoo Sports.
The national narrative has been “the Bears fell apart” following the loss to the struggling Giants (4-8). The fact is: Chicago sat Trubisky for a second consecutive week with a strained AC joint in his throwing shoulder. Unfortunately, Chase Daniel demonstrated why he is a career backup with only four starts since becoming an undrafted free agent in 2009. He laid an egg, fumbling four times and throwing two interceptions including a pick-six. Not many teams can overcome such atrocities.
The Bears still managed to go (1-1) with Daniel while maintaining a game-and-a-half lead over the second place Vikings (6-5-1) in the NFC North. Overall, they remain in fourth place in point differential (+103) trailing only the Saints, Rams, and Chiefs. These are signs of a strong ball club.
For weeks, the League has been yearning for this matchup; hence, utilizing its “flex” power to switch the game to Sunday Night. Who doesn’t want to see the “new school” high potency Rams offense against the “old school” Monsters of the Midway defense?
Los Angeles success begins and ends with the versatile Todd Gurley. He is currently leading the league in rushing with 1,175 yards and 15 touchdowns in addition to 46 receptions, 474 yards, and four more touchdowns. Defensively, the Rams statistically are in the middle of the pack while yielding 24.8 points/game. But they employ Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Aaron Donald. He leads the league in sacks (16.5) and constantly disrupts the rhythm of opposing passers.
The Bears must neutralize these two players to win. Several factors play in their favor: home field advantage where they are 5-1, the weather, and a ferocious defense. When motivated this defense can stop anyone, including Gurley, yielding only 85.8 yards/game. This is a top-five defense with several players that make plays leading the NFL in interceptions (21) and defensive touchdowns (6). This unit also has 15 forced fumbles constantly providing the offense a second chance with a shorter field.
Keys to the Game
Defensively, this unit eclipses a 35.7% rate of “three and out” plays, which is top-five in the NFL. Chicago must disrupt Jared Goff in the backfield. This may be expected given their recent play in addition to the freezing temperatures. Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Co. are handing out sacks like Halloween candy. The speed of the second-level, particularly former Bulldogs Roquan Smith and Leonard Floyd, must make the right reads and make tackles against Gurley, otherwise, it could be a long evening. Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson must continue creating turnovers allowing the offense to keep up with the high-scoring Rams.
Smith recently told chicagobears.com, “We just have to stick true to our technique and trust our abilities and then I think everything will take care of itself.”
Offensively, Trubisky brings another dimension to this unit. His uncanny ability to elude defenders is what makes him special. Coach Matt Nagy needs to dial-up some short to intermediate throws to develop a rhythm before #10 can start taking shots downfield. Nagy needs to put his faith in Jordan Howard running the ball more than ever in this one. The play calling should be designed to hinder Donald’s capabilities.
My prediction, the Rams take this one 24-22.
Until then, stay thirsty. JT out!