Just like last week's Vikings, the Chicago Bears play a 4-3 Defense and also major in Tampa Two. So Tim will see a lot of similarities in this game. Further, the Bears actually play a very basic (although very fundamentally sound) brand of defense - what you see is sort of what you get. Being such a young quarterback, and a raw passer who's still learning to read NFL defenses on the fly, facing two very similar defenses in back-to-back weeks, with this one being so very vanilla, well it should help him make his reads a lot faster come game time. And it should show in his confidence, perhaps a little earlier in the game even.
What the Vikings defense did right last week in their game plan was they held Tim Tebow's running and scrambling in check. And that was likely their main goal. What they did wrong, on the other hand, was they dared him to throw the ball and beat them through the air with only a makeshift secondary to defend him. I think the Bears look at this and essentially decide that the plan itself isn't flawed, so long as the secondary can actually execute. I think they cookie cut nearly the exact same battle strategy on defense. Julius Peppers and their four down-linemen are likely up to the task of keeping the edge sealed against Tebow's escape, so it'll be up to their corners and safeties to not let Tebow look like Brady again. But with eight or nine in the box, they won't have a lot of help to spread around in the defensive backfield, so they better be better in their execution and in their assignments against the always improving Tebow. And underline this again: A raw passer isn't quite so raw when going against his second 4-3 Tampa Two scheme in as many weeks. He'll be reading this rather vanilla defense quicker than we've seen before.
Chicago's offense. Denver's defense.
The Vikings lit up Denver's 'D' without RB Adrian Peterson and the Bears will look to at least score without RB Matt Forte. The Vikings torched us through the air without a star at quarterback, and nobody is going to confuse Caleb Hanie as a star either. So again, there are some similarities here. The Vikings had 32 points of success that the Bears would like to duplicate. Although, let's get something straight right off the bat: That will never happen. The guy that threw six picks, fumbled once, was sacked 11 times and has a quarterback rating of 41 over the last two games... this guy isn't going to beat us by dropping back. In fact, he's more likely to be put on injury reserve that way. Literally. I mean, have you met VonDoom?
So what specifically do the Bears take away from the Vikings' offensive game plan? Percy Harvin. In space.
Percy had eight catches for over 150 yards, but it's not because Ponder and Percy were burning us deep. It's because we failed in stopping that speedy little dude in space on two of his eight grabs. One of Harvin's catches went for a 52 yard TD, but it was only about a 10 yard pass. His other TD catch was in the air for about three yards, but went for around 49 yards. The Vikings kept looking to get the ball to Percy Harvin in space - and eventually it paid off... twice. The Bears will look to do the same with Devin Hester. That's their best chance of scoring points. Marion Barber is no slouch in the run game, and he'll get plenty of action, but Hester is their best chance to copycat putting points up like the Vikings did.
The common theory had always been that Tim Tebow and the Broncos aren't built to put up 30+ points, so scoring points and making Tebow pass to win is the key to success. Maybe that's true. Maybe it's not. But the Bears aren't currently built to find out. Without Jay Cutler or Matt Forte, their offense isn't built to put up 30 points, so they'll instead look to fight fire with fire. They'll look to beat the Broncos through ball security, limited passing and trusting their defense. That's right, they're likely to play Tebow-Ball, at least until the game gets out of hand.
Caleb Hanie has shown a knack for throwing interceptions over the last two weeks. And with like three Pick-Sixes on the season already, Bronco defenders have shown a knack for taking those throws to the house. Oh, and here's a fun fact: Hanie threw as many picks as the team had points last week in the Bears' 10-3 loss to Kansas City. He was also bitch-sacked a whopping seven times. Ouch! It's not rocket science to say that you don't want this kid dropping back against what has to be the #1 pass rush in the NFL over the last five or six weeks.
Chicago needs to make a conscience effort to distrust Caleb Hanie and instead trust their defense. At least for three quarters or until the plan fails, whichever comes first. The Bears need to make Denver's rather conservative offense score points without the benefit of turnovers and defensive scoring. Feed the ball to Marion Barber early and often, even if it's not having great success. And perhaps more importantly, get the ball to Devin Hester in space on short, safe passes - hoping to copy some of that Percy Harvin magic. Give these two guys a chance, and don't let Caleb take a chance. Because quite frankly, the Bears are better off by essentially giving up on traditional offense - and even giving up on passing the ball on 3rd and 6, instead playing for field position and hoping for a Special Teams TD, turnovers and/or a game-changing play from Barber or Hester.
Just like Tebow says of his own offense, the Bears need to consider every drive a positive drive so long as it ends in a kick (whether it be field goal, PAT or a punt). They need to let the defense keep the game close and not unleash Caleb's interception-slinging-arm until he either has to throw to win the game late, or because he's so far behind in the game that it no longer matters. Either of those cases likely mean a bigger loss. If Caleb is forced to throw 25+ times, he's more likely to be injured and taken out for the season by Von MIller than he is to come out with a win. And I truly believe that. I would be willing to debate the statistical likelihood with any of you who disagree -)
The way I see it, the Bears are unlikely to respect either offense, so they'll look to play Tebow-Ball and let the defenses sort it out. It's probably their best bet, although I certainly don't think it'll go their way regardless. At some point in the game, I consider it more likely than not that Denver will end up with a ten point lead, which would force Hanie to throw, make mistakes and get creamed in the backfield. So I'll go against conventional wisdom here by predicting Denver scores on this Chicago defense and comes out with a convincing win - I'm thinking maybe 24-6, and definitely a one-game lead in the division.
Last week's defensive performance was an anomaly. Percy happened and Von was gone. But this is a consistent team. I feel confident we'll beat teams that we should beat, and this is a team we should beat.