The Chicago Bears defensive game plan for this week’s game against the New York Jets should look a lot like last week’s did for the San Francisco 49ers and not like it did against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1.
The Jets are very similar to both of the opponents the Bears have faced this season. Offensively, they both want to run the ball. They do a lot of read option looks and run a lot of misdirection. The key to winning will be making quarterback Geno Smith think and make throws under pressure. It’s something they were able to do against Colin Kaepernick, but not E.J. Manuel.
Smith isn’t going to beat the Bears. This is very much like the team’s Week 1 opponent, with Manuel. The mistake Mel Tucker made that week was that he didn’t do anything to confuse Manuel or to make him make mistakes. He can’t do that again. The Bears were much better at mixing pressure packages and coverages against the 49ers. They made Kaepernick think, when a young quarterback has to think, good things happen for the defense.
Against Buffalo, the Bills had just five plays in which they sent more than four rushers, according to Pro Football Focus. On those five plays, Manuel was just two-for-five. Outside of that, he was 14-for-17 with 154 yards. Not blitzing allowed Manuel to sit back and deliver passes to open receivers. The Bears safeties aren’t good, they can’t let opponents get that far against their defense.
It was a different defense against the 49ers. The Bears had 11 plays in which they sent extra defenders, according to PFF. Kaepernick completed five of eight passes, but for just 46 yards. They also sacked him twice. What isn’t included in those numbers is the interception by Charles Tillman that the referees took away.
All three of the Bears interceptions came on plays when they sent just four rushers, but two of which were great plays by secondary members and one was after Jared Allen and Will Sutton forced Kaepernick to scramble.
It isn’t just about blitzing, it’s about pressure. The Bears weren’t getting it against the Bills and they didn’t do anything to change that. Against San Francisco, they showed multiple looks. Kaepernick didn’t know if pressure was coming or where it was coming from. They had him confused.
When Smith has been pressured this season, he has a passer rating of just 69.9, completing just eight of 21 passes and being sacked three times. When he hasn’t been pressured, he has completed nearly 80 percent of his passes.
The Jets don’t have nearly as good of an offense as the 49ers or the Bills. Smith is nowhere near the weapon Kaepernick is, none of their receivers are as good as any of San Francisco’s top-three weapons, they don’t have Frank Gore, C.J. Spiller or Fred Jackson in the backfield and their offensive line has a lot of question marks.
The Jets do lead the league, averaging 179 rushing yards per game, but they’ve also played the league’s two worst rushing defenses. Of course, the Bears aren’t far behind as the sixth-worst run defense in the league.
Last week was an encouraging sign for the Bears’ run defense. They seemingly held the 49ers in check, but that wasn’t really the case. Gore averaged 4.8 yards per carry and that came without a long touchdown run that was wiped off due to a questionable holding call that came nine yards down the field. If that run had counted, Gore would’ve averaged 8.3 yards per carry.
The Jets big free agent acquisition was Chris Johnson, formerly known as CJ2K, but he’s not their top rusher so far this season. Chris Ivory has run for a team-best 145 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Much of his yardage came on one long run, a 71-yarder against Oakland. If you took that out, he’s averaged under 3.5 yards per carry. Johnson has averaged 3.6 yards per carry. They can be stopped, but the Bears will have to be even better than they were last week.
Johnson made his name by getting big plays. Ivory, obviously, is also capable of such plays. The Bears are known for giving up huge plays on the ground. They have to be disciplined. Allen can’t crash in every play, he has to contain. The Jets will test that.
They also have to hold up at the point of attack, which makes the Jeremiah Ratliff injury a big question mark. Ratliff has been great this season, but he suffered a concussion last week. He was replaced by Will Sutton, who isn’t nearly the force against the run. The 49ers didn’t test Sutton much, the Jets will.
The 49ers abandoned their running game way too early, instead trusting Kaepernick. The Jets made the same mistake against Green Bay, but I don’t expect Rex Ryan to allow it to happen again.
The Bears have to stop the run. That is going to be an on-going theme every week. But it’s more than that, they can’t let Smith make big plays. Even if the Jets are able to run the ball, the Bears can attack Smith and force turnovers.
They have to do what good defenses do and dictate the flow of the game. The Jets have a good defense, the Bears have to make sure their defense beats the Jets offense. The key to doing that is by beating Smith.