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Dusting Off an Old Bears Approach

Three matchups where the Bears figure to have an advantage over the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday's game at Soldier Field as they try to contain Lamar Jackson with the defense emphasizing containment and tackling.

In days gone by, former Bears coach Lovie Smith's teams had a saying that the star of the defense is the defense.

Those defenses usually enjoyed great success when facing scrambling quarterbacks, particularly Michael Vick. They were able to handle Vick because they maintained pass rush discipline and played a team, zone approach in pass coverage.

It didn't hurt having two fast linebackers like Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs to cause problems for Vick.

On Sunday the Bears will need this defense to be the star of the defense.

Individual matchups will become secondary to the team approach against Lamar Jackson, who is the best running quarterback of all time. Jackson can make defenders look foolish, and the Bears need to be both deceptive and disciplined to handle a player of this type. 

More than anything, they need to be sure with tackles because it's been a problem all year for them and Jackson can slip tackles and then turn on the jets.

There are some individual matchups they need to win where they have advantages in order to make the team approach work on defense, but they'll also need to continue winning key offensive matchups to keep Justin Fields' momentum going as a passer.

Here are three matchups where they own edges to press.

Bears WR Darnell Mooney vs. Ravens CB Anthony Averett

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Coming off a big touchdown catch and leading the Bears in receiving, Mooney has developed a connection with Justin Fields and faces a cornerback who was a backup until injuries intervened. Averett is highly thought of by the Ravens but won't have a big size advantage on Mooney like some cornerbacks have, because he is almost the exact same size at 5-11, 178 pounds. Averett has had what looks like a good first half with a 78.3 passer rating against 55.8% completions allowed but hasn't completely impressed. Pro Football Focus has graded him the 93rd best cornerback in the league with a 54.8 mark, one spot and three-tenths of a point ahead of the Bears' struggling Kindle Vildor. Sportradar credits Averett with two touchdown passes allowed. Mooney has had a steady second season despite working with a rookie passer most of the year, making three or more receptions in seven of the nine Bears games. His yards per catch (12.5) are higher, and he leads the team with seven receptions of 20 yards or longer.

Bears TE Cole Kmet vs. Ravens LB Patrick Queen

The second-year inside linebacker from LSU has endured pass coverage issues for Baltimore and it's an area of the field the Bears can exploit with tight ends Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham or Jesse James. More likely it would be Kmet as the Bears seem to think Graham's best usage is in deeper ranges or the red zone when he turns 35 in a week. Kmet enjoyed his best NFL game overall against Pittsburgh as a receiver and has gained momentum as Justin Fields developed more confidence in him. In the last four games, all four opponents hurt the Ravens with tight end receptions and even Adam Shaheen found a way to make three receptions against them Thursday for Miami. Queen has a 39.6 PFF grade, 73rd out of 86 linebackers graded.

Bears OLB Robert Quinn vs. Ravens LT Alejandro Villaneuva

Villaneuva left the Steelers as a free agent and landed in Baltimore and is hardly a punching bag for anyone in a career with two Pro Bowl berths. However, the 6-foot-9 Villaneuva hasn't been at his best this year as a pass blocker. PFF gives him a steady 65.5 overall grade but only a 53.5 grade as a pass blocker. Quinn leads the Bears with 6 1/2 sacks and key offsides penalties marred his last effort. His goal in this one is not entirely beating Villaneuva but actually doing it while staying in his rush lanes. This makes it tricky. Edge rushers who take too wide a path to the QB or get too caught up with the inside lanes will run the risk of Jackson breaking free for good yardage scrambling or on RPO plays.

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