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7 Most Important Match-Ups To Watch: Preview Of Bears/Cowboys Showdown

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Chicago Bears (1-1) will be at home this Sunday Nite on NBC against the Dallas Cowboys (2-0) and it will be a big game for both squads. This evenly-matched contest will be a test for both teams and should come to the wire, and whoever wins will take the #1 spot atop the weak class of the NFC. Dallas right now looks like the best team in the conference without a doubt, thought it’s very early, so look for them to prove themselves and play very aggressive against the NFC Champs. Chicago, on the other hand, needs to assert themselves and play well on offense to keep up with a high potent Dallas attack. I’m going to give you the 7 most important match-ups to keep your eye on, as these 7 things will determine the outcome of the game, and show you what you need to watch for this weekend. Later this week, I’ll give you 5 reason the Bears will win and 5 reasons the Cowboys will win in the next couple of days.

1. Marion Barber vs. Bears Run Defense: If Barber can continue to keep the success rolling, running the ball at 6.2 yards per rush, this game will be won by Dallas easily. Barber, a touchdown machine, has scored three times so far and is a very, very physical back, that will bruise through the line of scrimmage with the best of ’em. He also has great quickness and breakaway ability to change the complexion of an entire game. He is one of the premiere, featured backs in all of the NFL, and Dallas is finally starting to realize this Golden Gopher is the real deal, utilizing him often. Now they have to give him the majority of the carries and let him go for 25 times a clip, and if so, the sky’s the limit for Barber and the most impressive team in the NFC. With that being said, The Monsters of the Midway will have their input heard. They held Tomlinson to 25 yards rushing (negative yardage up until halftime) and Larry Johnson to 55, so take into consideration this match-up. A young, up and coming star faces a talented, experienced squad that thrives in making other teams one dimensional. Tommie Harris and Lance Briggs will need to be on their A-games like they have been in order for the Windy City to make this game close. If the defense controls the rushing attack of the ‘boys, expect the Bears to blitz early and often, more than usual. Dalllas running the ball well= Romo to succeed and shine once again and another win for Dallas. Chicago stops run like past two weeks= Romo to throw 35 times and see a steady diet of blitzes from secondary and a strong rush from the d-line throughout the game, along with a Tampa 2 (prevent the big pass play) Defense that will try to neutralize the deep ball to Terrell Owens.

2. Rex Grossman vs. 3-4 Defense: #8 has struggled mightily against 3-4 defenses (ex. N.E., S.D., and Miami, last two years). The pass coverage confuses his vision to read the packages, whether blitz or not, and he is a shaky QB under pressure. If Dallas brings the heat and forces a turnover early, watch out for a two-score lead from the get-go for the undefeated Cowboys. Chicago does not play well from behind, and that’s what they’ll be doing if Rex does not get off to a good start, which is so crucial for this inconsistent, yet striking QB (success depends on the deep ball to Berrian and short passes to TE). Coach Phillips is great at bringing pressure from all areas of the field and he can turn this game around if #8 is bumped of his game, something that is done very easily with the right pass rush/blitz.

3. Bears LB’s vs. Dallas TE’s: Jason Witten may want to watch game film of Gates shredding a Bears secondary/LB group. If Romo spreads the ball out with Owens and Co., he can exploit the aggressive, yet vulnerable Chicago D up the middle with Witten and draw plays. The TE’s will make the Bears respect the pass game in which they will factor into, and also open up draw plays and delayed runs by Barber and Jones. If the Witten and Fasano put their mark on the game, watch for Dallas to have a Bears defense in their hands more times than not.

4. Bernard Berrian vs. Dallas Secondary: Terrance Newman is still a question mark because of a foot injury and the ‘boys defensive backfield (New York Giants, Eli, and Burress for 35 pts. Wk 1) is not the brightest spot on a team with few weaknesses. Anthony Henry will have the responsibility to try to contain a speedy and sure-handed Bernard Berrian. If Rex and Berrian can connect at a good rate and finally hook up deep, look for this game to turn into a shootout. Berrian is a game-changer, and the Chicago run game will open up the play-action to perfection – if it can get started. The play-action will solely depend on Benson and the offensive line’s protection, and if it works out well, it’s #8 to #80 all from there. Bears offensive success relies on the deep ball, run game up the middle, and a play-action that is very good. Berrian against Henry, Reeves, Hamlin, and Roy Williams will be an interesting battle because of the speed on speed match-up. If Berrian gets by, Williams has to be in the right position to deliver a big hit. A big hit is something Berrian is susceptible to (185 pounds) and the ‘boys D can shake him up and alter a struggling Bears passing game, that is desperate and faltering, each pass attempt that is thrown. Expect some big plays by both the Bears WR’s, who have been absent besides Berrian, and a suspect Dallas secondary (Henry has been solid). Look for the battle to be won early on with this head-to-head situation that will have Henry lined up across from Berrian. If the Bears aerial method can get jump-started, Dallas may need to go to less eight-man fronts, with that opening up the run for Cedric Benson.

5. Windy City Flyer – #23 Devin Hester’s Impact and Effect on field position: If Dallas kicks to Hester, they will surely pay the price for such foolish decisions. Either way, figure the Bears to get great field position, though Cowboys punter McBriar is a good boomer deep. Look for Danieal Manning to get some tries returning if Dallas kicks away, so no matter who returns a kick, they will have the speed to break a game wide open and go the distance. Hester last week took one back to the house and got one called back, and almost took another to the end zone, so obviously his impact on the game will figure to be a determining factor if it’s a close contest. Hester, now on offense and on the field more, will have opportunites with the ball in his hands like a former flashy, Cowboy (Deion Sanders) once did, and this may open up a dismal pass attack. Though he has not caught one this season, expect OC Ron Turner to give Grossman the keys to the offense and I see Hester catching a couple of balls short, giving the chance to make a move or two to breakaway. You have to think that the Bears will open up the offense for a big game like this no matter what happens. Early they will pass and then develop an improving run game later. Hester, the most electrifying player in the NFL, will effect Dallas’ ST unit and the field position may be vital if the Bears keep this game low-scoring; running the ball a lot, and on D, forcing Dallas to punt. It plays into Hester’s hands and the Bears’ strengths, so this game will be won by the Bears if Dallas is in a field position all nite, in a close, grind ’em out battle. Hester is too good to be stopped, and he will definitely put his mark on the game (5 TD’s under the lights last season).

6. Aggressiveness on both sides of the ball, especially offensively: Dallas right now has a clear advantage that is huge on offense, with their play-calling being so good. They are clicking on all cylinders and the balance has been perfected only through two weeks into the season. You can see their run game doing well enough, while the pass game going short, then deep to open up the Bears D to playing back, then going to a strong run game off tackle. Tommie Harris and the flying attacks of Bears LB’s may have something to say about it, but Dallas can tire a team with the possession of the clock (vs. Miami). No matter how it plays out, their aggressiveness and play-calling could take away from the Bears agressiveness on D, while they are guessing all nite long. Whoever sets the tone when Dallas has the ball (Dallas O/Chicago D) will win this game. The match-up is very even and I think play-calling will be magnified and very vital to this showdown. With the Bears having the rock, look for #8 to test the CB’s of Dallas, but one thing will be for sure, the offense will open up and you’ll see 4-5 WR sets early and often. This will provide Rex with more options, and it’s designed to build his confidence and help the team get going and on-track, to then go to a run (style which benefits the most) that is time consuming and clock-eating. Dallas’ aggressive defense unit will stop that by blitzing and giving Rex little time in the pocket, so look for the RB’s and TE to stay back for an extra blocker, and it’s up in the air whether or not they can block DeMarcus Ware or other LB/DE’s for the ‘boys. Offensive lines will play a big factor and the pass game will be used for both teams to open up a running attack that will help both teams win the game. Neither team will win the game by going deep, scoring via the long ball, so expect (defenses are too good to be beaten) the best running team and QB with the least amount of turnovers to win the battle. Key aggressive defenders on D for Bears: Tommie Harris, Lance Briggs, Adewale Ogunleye, Mark Anderson, and Charles Tillman. Dallas defenders that can bring rush: DeMarcus Ware, Chris Canty, Bradie James, Marcus Spears, Anthony Spencer, and Roy Williams. Bears offensive step-up players: Rashied Davis, Mushin Muhammed, Adrian Peterson, TE’s, and up-front protection. Dallas offensive players to win: Owens and Barber, that’s all they need. With this being said, look for the Bears to attack the middle with routes going to Clark, it cannot be underestimated with the success pointed to passes to the TE’s way (Rex at his best going to TE) and then get quick slants going, along with comeback routes a lot. If Rex makes quick, decisions and reads, the WR “yac” may be very good, considering Dallas will respect the deep ball. All will be won for both sides when the blitz comes, who ever comes out of the storm/heat will win. Too many times, Bears defense does it job and the offense gives it back, so field position, middle of the field, and the line of scrimmage will all be determined by aggressiveness. The aggressor, the most aggressive squad will come out victorious because it has shown its strengths, flexing muscles will be important for two tough teams.

7. 1st Quarter Play – Red Zone Conversions: Too simple, you can go Bears DL v. Dallas OL and vice-versa… Charles Tillman vs. Owens will be another great one (Tillman does very well against physical WR’s, see Randy Moss….) Time of Possession will be another thing to keep your eye, especially because Dallas’ long drives will be a killer, if they can get that going. Also, Bears offense will need to give the D a breather, more than just once or twice, so the 3rd down conversion will play it’s part again for an inept Bears offense. But when it’s all said and done, the team that sets the tone early will win the game. Both teams are so evenly matched, though I see this game being won by a range from 10-17 points, I say one of these teams takes the game away from the other and wins it convincingly. The styles and concepts of both teams, on both sides of the ball, are very different and varying. I see no comebacks here, as the Bears with the lead are tough to catch and the Chicago offense cannot comeback at all because of a too, predictable offense for defenses. With his being said, look for the Red Zone Effieciency to make all the difference in this game early on. Field Goals and Touchdowns will be the deciding factors, to see which team runs away first and goes for the win. Edge: Dallas run game with Barber (17 touchdowns last 18 games) and Bears pass game (Rex, very good in Red Zone Scoring, and the Dallas defense is not so good, while the Bears have a strong pass defense in the RZ.) This game will be won in the Red Zone and you will know the outcome very early but what team scores the first touchdown/10 points. All that being said, Home Field Advantage for the Chicago Bears @ SOLDIER FIELD may be the deciding factor, proving to be the final verdict on the win, with the crowd and the home team coming away with a victory.


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