Gambling Against Dallas Too Risky for Bears Defense

Gene Chamberlain

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The disturbing aspect of the Bears rallying on Thanksgiving to defeat the Detroit Lions is relevant as they face the Dallas Cowboys Thursday night at Soldier Field.

They gambled too much on defense in the game and if it's the way they have to play against Dallas this is potentially a matchup nightmare.

Roquan Smith came away with two sacks and Nick Kwiatkoski blitzed, as well. Especially in the fourth quarter, they played fire zone or man to man to cover up and got away with gambling on their pressures largely because Detroit had a quarterback in his first NFL game and their running back situation was unsettled.

'You know, the execution was outstanding," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said about his blitzers. "They just did a phenomenal job. From a protection standpoint, we had run the look earlier but run some zone pressures out of that look, so we understood from a protection standpoint what was going to happen or what we anticipated.

"But they did a great job executing it, and Roquan did a phenomenal job of picking the center and then getting vertical. It made it tough on the (running) back. He didn't know really who to pick up."

Blitzing Dallas isn't going to work. They need to be stout on the edges against the run and come with pressure out of their regular rush.

Dak Prescott has no fear and can get outside to throw or throw it from the pocket.

The worst matchup for the Bears might not even be the passing game.

Since Oakland went at the Bears with stretch plays and double-team blocks on  nose tackle Eddie Goldman, this Bears-Cowboys matchup has been a concern. Dallas' offensive line is twice as good as Oakland's at running stretch plays and Ezekiel Elliott is far better and more versatile than Josh Jacobs.

The Bears defense is under more pressure this week than it has been since playing New Orleans, and remember how that one turned out.

When the defense is under pressure, it means Mitchell Trubisky and the offense are under pressure to produce. That can be bad news.

In the four games remaining on the Bears schedule, this is the worst matchup. They've already beaten Minnesota convincingly. They were one end zone interception late by Adrian Amos from overtime against the Packers. If anyone knows how to handle Kansas City, it has to be Matt Nagy.

The Bears can easily disappoint on national TV in this one. Here are three keys to avoid it.

1. Gap Integrity

It's a simple football concept. The Bears have to be in their gaps of responsibility without overextending because Elliott possesses excellent vision and both the speed and power to quickly capitalize when a crease occurs either because of a block or a defender gambling. The Bears had to deal with this when they faced Saquon Barkley and handled it well this year after getting burned last season. Then again, the Giants offensive line isn't opening holes on its own for anyone. What they wouldn't give to have Akiem Hicks eligible to return this week instead of next week.

2. Take It Out Of Trubisky's Hands

The Cowboys have lost three of their last four and the link for all four of those games is the way their defense has coughed up rushing yards. It's a problem Rod Marinelli's cover-2 style defenses have always had. They want to play zone. Mitchell Trubisky struggles against zones. The zone team has trouble defending the run because the linebackers have to drop into coverage. Dallas is giving up 124 yards a game rushing over the last four games, 119 yards rushing a game over the last six. Ball control is a good way to assist their defense in this one. It's how Buffalo and Minnesota beat Dallas. One way to limit big offensive plays by the league's top passing attack is make sure they're on the sidelines.

3. Open-field Tackling

The Cowboys have outside deep threats not completely unlike Detroit's with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, but they also have the slot receiver who is hitting his stride now. The Bears have experienced more than their share of trouble against Randall Cobb in the past in Green Bay. Remember the opener last year? After adjusting to playing in a new offense, Cobb now has averaged 4.25 catches and 90 yards receiving over the last four games. Slot corner Buster Skrine has to be on Cobb and make sure tackles,. Dallas will get its big plays. All Bears defensive backs have to be sure to get the tackle so they can force field goals.

The Line: Cowboys by 3.

The Call: Cowboys 27, Bears 17

Elsewhere This Week:

The Lines
The Picks

Ravens -5 1/2 at Bills

Ravens 20, Bills 14

Redskins +13 at Packers

Packers 31, Redskins 16

Broncos +9  1/2 at Texans

Texans 27, Broncos 16

49ers +3 at Saints

Saints 24, 49ers 10

Bengals +8 1/2 at Browns

Browns 19, Bengals 16

Panthers +2 1/2 at Falcons

Falcons 28, Panthers 24

Lions +14 at Vikings

Vikings 40, Lions 13

Dolphins +5 1/2 at Jets

Jets 19, Dolphins 13

Colts +3 at Bucs

Bucs 28, Colts 21

Chargers -3 at Jaguars

Chargers 17, Jaguars 16

Chiefs +3 at Patriots

Chiefs 35, Patriots 30

Steelers +2 1/2 at Cardinals

Steelers 23, Cardinals 19

Titans -2 1/2 at Raiders

Titans 26, Raiders 20

Seahawks -2 1/2 at Rams

Rams 13, Seahawks 10

Giants +8 1/2 at Eagles

Eagles 31, Giants 10

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

I actually think this Bears team might be able to get it done against Dallas. Their defense has been off and the dynamic between the coaches and players in Dallas seems strained with blame being thrown all around.