The Chicago Bears hit the road for a Monday Night Football matchup against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. After faltering offensively on Thursday Night Football last week, this is an opportunity for the Bears to get back on the right track and snap a three-game losing streak.
Keep an eye out for the following key matchups to a Bears victory:
Bears RBs vs. Patriots LBs
Any success on the ground adds to the Bears' offensive options. The Patriots will likely be focused on stopping the run. And while I have a lot of respect for this defense, their interior run-stuffing ability is not one of their strengths. Especially with how many nickel and dime looks the Patriots lean on defensively. The more that the run game can force the Patriots to play heavy, the easier things will become for the passing offense.
Additionally, the Bears will need to win in the screen and short passing game, most notably against the linebackers in coverage. In my game preview film breakdown, I mentioned a play where the Ravens motioned an RB out wide, forcing a LB to follow him in man coverage. This resulted in a short gain that kept the chains moving.
Plays like that are just one example of how to exploit the linebackers in coverage. It is not sexy or explosive, but it is what the Bears will need to lean on in this game because the Patriots' deep coverage players are excellent and they will often have a numbers advantage out there.
While the short passing game needs to be a focus, it also needs to be effective. We all remember Marc Trestman throwing 100 ineffective screen passes in Foxborough in 2014. Incessant screen passes for the sake of screen passes do not work against the Patriots. But a tempered and well-designed short game always has a chance.
Bears OL vs. Patriots Pass Rushers
The Bears' offensive linemen need to recognize blitzes, stunts, simulated pressures, delayed rushers, and react accordingly. The Patriots will use a lot of smoke and mirrors pre-snap. Because of that, the Bears' blockers need to keep their heads on a swivel and be ready for pressure coming from anywhere.
More specifically, the Patriots love to loop EDGE players inside while interior defenders push blockers outside. Given the Bears' struggles at center and right guard in pass protection, these types of stunts can cause major issues if the players are not prepared.
Additionally, the Patriots love to send delayed blitzers and LBs on green dog looks. Green dog means that a LB is matched up with an RB. If the RB stays in to block, then the LB is going to come at the QB full force.
Luke Getsy and Justin Fields vs. Bill Belichick
The Bears' offensive scheme, timing of play calls, and execution of those calls on the field will be of the utmost importance against the Patriots. This is a defense that is very aggressive, well-coached, and disciplined. The Bears will need to have a plan in place to handle the simulated pressures, stunts, and aggressive blitz concepts thrown at the offensive line.
It will be on Luke Getsy and Justin Fields to time up opportunistic deep shots up when New England leverages its personnel to blitz in man coverage. The Patriots are one of the most man-heavy defenses in the NFL, and their DBs do not have the speed to keep up with Darnell Mooney and Velus Jones Jr. in man coverage. When they are sitting in single high looks with press coverage and a loaded-up front, it might be a good time to dial up a shot play. Additionally, Fields will need to get the ball out quickly and trust his WR.
Justin Fields needs to take what the Patriots give him in the short and intermediate areas. Aside from a few plays, they are likely to take away the deep ball. Their DBs are very talented and play aggressively to create takeaways when QBs throw downfield into coverage.
The Patriots' defense really struggled to contain Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' rushing attack in Week 3. Most of that success resulted from read-option plays. Although we have not seen the Bears use a ton of read-option through the first six weeks, this matchup is a great time to lean into it.
Yes, I am fully aware that all three of my key matchups are on offense for the Chicago Bears and on defense for the New England Patriots. This is not a coincidence. You cannot win if you cannot score. And I think that this is the best defense the Bears have seen to this point in the season.
But if you insist on a defensive matchup, I will lean toward the Bears' interior DL and LBs vs. the Patriots' running offense (RBs and run blocking). The Patriots have one of the better rushing offenses in the NFL. If New England's defense is doing its job, this rushing offense can bleed you dry. Meanwhile, the Bears have had their issues stopping the run so far in 2022, especially when it comes to being effective against interior runs.
For a full further analysis and matchup breakdowns, don’t forget to check out my Bears vs. Patriots preview!