In what has been dubbed a “colossal matchup” on HoustonTexans.com, a “battle of Super Bowl hopefuls” in the Chicago Tribune, and a potential “Super Bowl preview” on NFL.com, the Texans trip to Chicago to meet the Bears for a Sunday night spectacle is nothing if not hyped. Both teams come into the contest at 7 and 1. Both teams have stellar defenses. The Bears tend to score more on defense, but the Texans have a much higher ranked offense. Special teams? Chicago wins that battle handily – on paper. We know the game will not come down to statistics but to match ups. We delve into some of the key matchups utilizing the extensive knowledge provided by @JudgeLucas with SoldierFieldInsider.com. Judge provides his opinion on 2012′s improved Bears defense, their top ranked special teams unit and what players we will be hearing about on Monday morning as big contributors in the game for the Bears side.
1) What’s the difference in this year’s Bears defense over last year? Is it concentrating more on stripping the ball? Better depth? Another factor? (@jmac25 )
As we’ve seen from CB Charles Tillman’s boxer-like jabs, the Bears are definitely focusing more on the first guy wrapping up and the second stripping the ball. We have a lot of faith in DE Julius Peppers and the d-line putting pressure on the quarterback, so the rest of the team can sit back in Lovie Smith’s usual idea of a cover-two scheme. I know it’s cliche, but “bend don’t break” has been the idea.
2) Is the Bears’ disciplined Cover 2 the ideal D to stop the Texans’ cutback running game and play action passing since no one runs it quite like Kubiak does? (@TXBobbumman/@MigM_)
As a fan of the Bears, I am genuinely afraid of the Texans’ offense. Like the question says, Kubiak has an art for running and play-action passes. Discipline is key; the Bears need to keep Arian Foster’s game limited and prevent him from making third downs manageable for Houston’s offense. Once the run is established, threats like Owen Daniels are isolated on the other side of the field with play-action which could be a problem with the Bears’ cover-two safeties playing so deep. Although most of the yards were at garbage in a blow-out game, the Bears did let CJ (Titans RB Chris Johnson) churn 141 last game vs. the Titans. That can’t happen this week.
3) Given that the Bears offensive line has given up 28 sacks on the season, how will it hold up against the Texans front 7? (@garciarafael65)
Seeing how the Texans almost match that at (making) 25 sacks, I’m not sure how to give an in-depth answer other than the obvious: run the ball and mix up plays. The Texans are 4th and 2nd in passing and rushing yards allowed respectively, so establishing either won’t be easy. If the running game can’t get going, perhaps screens to RB Matt Forte or WR Devin Hester. Regardless of the play call, QB Jay Cutler will need to be decisive and not hold onto the ball one second too long like he is so notorious for doing.
4) On the other hand, since the Texans’ offensive line has given up only 10 sacks on the season, how will Julius Peppers and the Bears front 7 attack?
The Bears probably won’t “attack” because of that reason and instead sit back and force turnovers. Like mentioned above, Peppers and crew will have a tough time getting to Matt Schaub, but stopping Arian Foster is the first priority. They will need to keep every play in front of them and continue forcing turnovers.
5) Since the Texans do not turn the ball over much, are you confident that the Bears offense can take control against the Texans defense if needed? (@Louie_Guerra)
I’m not too confident we can. The Texans’ three-four has been formidable under Wade Phillips. I don’t exactly see this game becoming a shootout. Special teams and defense will be the factors to win this game. I don’t see it, but perhaps we can dominate the Texans’ secondary like another NFC North team did this year…
6) How are you feeling about the Bears outstanding special teams unit matching up against the Texans?
This is a big factor! Field position will be a well-contested affair, so every yard generated on punt and kick-off returns will be a big deal. K Robbie Gould has only missed two FG attempts this year. He has been very consistent, especially after the game-winning kick versus the Carolina Panthers.
7) How have highly touted Bears rookies DE Shea McClellin and WR Alshon Jeffery (pre-injury) performed compared to fan expectations?
In my opinion, I don’t think they’ve been too bad. Jeffery had two touchdowns before his injury and McClellin sits at 2.5 sacks before entering this game. McClellin has been nice for depth. We are sporting some old linebackers, so any young legs that can be put into the game after some of these long “bend-don’t-break” drives is a good thing. We’re hoping Jeffery has a fast recovery. He will help when Brandon Marshall starts to draw double teams.
8) Who are a couple of offensive and defensive Bears players that are flying under the radar nationally?
I’d say on defense DE Israel Idonije, DT Henry Melton and DE Corey Wooton would be a few sleepers. Although most are “coverage sacks” and not legitimate overpowering of the o-line, these three guys have accounted for 13 of the Bears’ total sacks. That’s not to put their talent down, but the coverage has been great and Julius Peppers usually draws a double team. On offense, one could see TE Kellen Davis as a potential sleeper. He has two receiving TDs and is a nice threat in the red zone. OC Mike Tice should use him more in the passing game, but it’s a hard call seeings how good of a blocking tight end he is.
9) Finally, there’s been a lot of chatter in Houston and nationally that this could be a Superbowl preview. How do you see it?
I would love to see this as a Super Bowl matchup. In my personal rankings, I actually have the Texans and Bears #1 and #2 respectively. Stout defenses and all-around offenses make these two teams the best in my opinion. We’ll see, though, because the Bears have another test against the 49ers and Packers soon, and I know the Texans’ schedule doesn’t get any easier. After all, we knew Andrew Luck would be good, but THIS good? The Texans need to capitalize on this season or the next, because it looks like the division isn’t going to get any easier in the future.
State of the Texans extends a huge thanks to Judge Lucas of Soldier Field Insider for his participation and for helping Texans fans understand the inner workings of their Sunday Night Football week 10 opponent, the Chicago Bears, a bit better. You can view the Soldier Field Insider website here and follow Judge on Twitter here.