Detroit will travel to Chicago to face the Bears in their first re-match of the season. While many of the original matchups remain integral factors in the outcome of this contest, the purpose here is to take a look at some matchups that failed to fall into focus back in week five.
Mike Martz vs. Gunther Cunningham
There are no secrets behind the success of the Chicago Bears. A simple formula, consisting of strong defense, and a heavy dose of Matt Forte both running and catching the ball, have led to some success over the first part of the season.
The Chicago offense is one of few in the NFL that does not revolve around the signal caller, Jay Cutler. The catalyst of this offense is running back Matt Forte. Forte leads the team in rushing with 672 yards, and also leads the team in receiving with 419 yards; over 100 more than the second leading receiver on the team.
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz will attempt to get the ball in Forte’s hands as much as possible, and be creative in doing so. Forte will get his touches out of the backfield in the running game, where he experienced success in the first matchup between these two division rivals in October. Forte carried the rock 22 times for 116 yards in the loss, and had the Bears not abandoned the running game in the second half, could have had even more impressive numbers. Forte will also get touches through the screen game, which will help to offset the aggressive up-field rush of the Detroit defensive line.
The most intriguing part of this chess match will be how Lions’ defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham adjusts to the matchup problems Martz creates by moving Forte around the offensive formations. Martz will use different alignments, as well as motion, to isolate Forte against a linebacker in coverage, which is a mismatch that would clearly favor Chicago. Cunningham will have to adjust on the fly, and use either a safety, or nickel packages to account for Forte in the passing game. It will be interesting to see if Cunningham uses a defensive back to shadow Forte, or if he will trust Tulloch and company to get the job done.
Chicago cover 2 vs. Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford completed over 73 percent of his passes when he faced this Bear defense in week five on Monday Night Football. This performance was made possible by the Detroit offensive line, which kept Julius Peppers, and the rest of the Bear pass rush, in check.
Chicago employs a cover 2 defensive scheme, which hinges upon the ability to pressure the quarterback using the four down linemen only. The other seven defenders drop into coverage, and if pressure is applied, only have to cover their zones for a limited time. If unable to pressure with the front four, receivers have ample time to run through zones, and find the natural holes. This lack of a pass rush can also be addressed by blitzing a fifth defender, or “red dogging”, in an attempt to generate pressure on the quarterback. If Chicago is forced into this position regularly, the Lion receivers should be able to take advantage of the zone vacated by the blitzing defender.
This is what allowed Stafford to complete such a high percentage of passes in the previous matchup, as Chicago opted not to blitz with a high frequency, and to allow Stafford the time to dissect the cover 2 zones. Chicago’s defensive scheme will rely heavily once again on the pass rush generated by the defensive line, and will likely be more successful without the explosive Jahvid Best keeping them honest.