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Bears Need to Do It Their Way

Miami shut down Lamar Jackson and the Ravens running-based offense by blitzing and crowding the line but the Bears would be going against their defensive nature to duplicate this approach.

When Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson wasn't throwing a Mickey Mouse-themed birthday party for his 2-year-old daughter over the bye week, he took note of the Thursday night game played by the Baltimore Ravens.

The Bears could have found an approach for beating the AFC North-leading Ravens  in that 22-10 Miami Dolphins win Thursday but it's going to be against their very nature on defense if they did this in their game Sunday at Soldier Field.

"I feel like the theme of that game was to give them different looks and get pressure," the second-year Bears cornerback said. "I feel like they did that pretty much all game and were sending constant pressure and making the ball come out hot, making them really go through their route progression.

"It's kind of hard to do that when you have six or seven people coming. They had a good game plan and the Ravens didn't adjust to it."

It was a natural approach for the Dolphins, who blitz more than anyone in the league. They've taken over the spot from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 38.2% tp 35.8%.

That game was a case of blitzing the blitzer. Baltimore usually blitzes a lot at 33.2%, third most in the league. The Ravens perhaps are not as comfortable facing the blitz as delivering it.

Asking the Bears to crowd the line of scrimmage with six or seven players and sometimes send the house is a bit like asking a fish to run. The Bears blitz only 16.2% of the time, which ranks 28th most in the league.

They wouldn't be comfortable with the pressure it could put on their secondary, considering Lamar Jackson could run for 50 or 60 yards if the blitz doesn't get home and the secondary is exposed.

"I am pretty sure that they're going to prepare for that look again," Johnson said. "There are going to be plenty of teams that are going to see that film."

The traditional approach to playing teams with scrambling quarterbacks like Jackson is to play plenty of zone defense because the defensive backs are facing the quarterback and know when he's running. However, it's difficult against Baltimore because the Ravens are a running team first.

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They'll run against the zone teams and power their way through the defense.

The Bears might not need to stack any type of blitz against Jackson because their own standard pass rush is tied for seventh in sacks with 25 and hasn't had Khalil Mack available the last two games.

The real problem for the Bears defense has been their inability to stop the run, and that's not exactly ideal considering Jackson as a running quarterback accounts for 639 yards and running backs Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, Le'Veon Bell and Ty'Son Williams combined have run for only 59 more yards than him.

Regardless of how the running game gets its yardage, when your defense is 23rd stopping the run like the Bears are it is a problem.

"There were some big outliers there, especially in particular that San Francisco game, where, boy they were really running the ball well against us and had some long drives and yards per rush attempt was high," coach Matt Nagy said. "But for the most part, I really have thought that for most of the season we’ve done a good job at being able to stop the run until a few outlier games."

Too many "outliers" and a team gets to be an outsider for the playoffs.

It wouldn't hurt having both Khalil Mack (foot) and Akiem Hicks (ankle) back from injuries because both are vital in the run defense and pass rush. No word on this will be coming until later in the week.

"I know our coaches are all over it and that's something that here, the second part of the season we need to start there and get better there," Nagy said.

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