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Three Keys to a Bears Win

There is a template for teams to follow for beating the Arizona Cardinals and the

All the emphasis as the Bears do a 180-degree turn from the league's softest opponent to face the league's toughest opponent is on their defense.

It's for a good reason. The Arizona Cardinals have so many weapons it's almost difficult for the to figure out which one to use on a given play.

"They definitely have an explosive offense: quarterback, running back, receivers, tight ends," Bears outside linebacker Robert Quinn said. "One, up front, we stop the run. Plan to knock that out early. And when it's time to rush the passer, if you get to him early and often, I mean, no quarterback's comfortable if he's constantly getting hit.

"So as a defensive mindset, it's again, simple, don't allow plays to happen on you. If the ball's run to your gap, you better tackle it. If it's your one-on-one pass rush, you better win it. It's raising the standard on ourselves to be more productive, because they are the top offense and we know we have a challenge, but I think we believe in ourselves, too. Or, I know. I won’t say think. I know we believe in ourselves."

It will take more than belief and beating the Cardinals is more than merely stopping their offense.

In fact, their defense is ranked higher, at fifth overall and fourth in scoring defense while the Cardinals on offense are just 10th in the league and fifth in scoring.

As formidable as Arizona looks, they've been beaten twice and there is a template for beating a 9-2 team.

Whether the Bears have the resources available to use it remains to be seen. And it doesn't involve so-called "Bear weather," with cold temperatures or snow and rain. A slippery field always favors the receivers, who know where they're going, and the offensive linemen, who know who they're blocking.

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Here are the three Bears keys to beating Arizona.

1. Ball Control

The Bears need ownership of the football. They need an extensive, successful effort from David Montgomery. They need passing aimed at moving the chains and keeping the football. The best defense against an offense as explosive as Arizona's is not to let them on the field. The Packers held the ball for 37:35 to 22:25 for Arizona. A team as mundane as Carolina, at 5-7 and only half a game better than the Bears, held it for 37:42 to 22:18 for the Cardinals and crushed Arizona 34-10 in the desert. They used backup quarterback P.J. Walker to start that one, with Cam Newton making only a cameo appearance. The ball control can come using other means besides running it. Throwing short passes to backs works well, too. Aaron Jones caught seven passes for 51 yards against them and Christian McCaffrey had 10 receptions for 66 yards. Carolina backs had 14 receptions in the game overall. One real asset for the Bears would be to have Allen Robinson back from a 25-day hamstring injury because he is their key possession receiver on big downs but so far there is no indication this will happen.


2. Power It Up the Middle

The Cardinals rank 31st in the NFL at stopping running plays going up the middle of the field, according to directional statistics. This will assist in the ball control the Bears need. They must establish that area of the field as theirs on offense. Linemen Cody Whitehair, Sam Mustipher and James Daniels need to capitalize on an area of Arizona's defense which has not been good, overall. Arizona is 17th against the run. The Cardinals give up 5.1 yards a rush up the middle. They're giving up even more yardage per carry over right guard and right tackle, but are not as far down in the NFL rankings as they are running up the middle. The real problem for the Bears in establishing time of possession and running it up the middle or anywhere is their real weakness at running the ball effectively when they have a pocket passer at quarterback. If current practice trends indicate anything about where they will be on game day, Andy Dalton will be starting and the Bears have been far better running it when Justin Fields is the quarterback, just as they were far better last year at running it when Mitchell Trubisky was quarterback and not Nick Foles.

3. Containment

This is a bit of an unnatural act for a team leading the NFL in sacks, like the Bears are. As much as the media and general public loves praising Kyler Murray, he still has one weakness to his passing. He would rather pass it on the move or after moving. If Murray is contained within the pocket the Bears' chances of winning this game increase exponentially. He is generously listed as 5-foot-10. Give up an inch or more and it might be more accurate. He does not see as well over the linemen unless he is taking a very deep drop. If the pocket is that deep, it's an open invitation to Bears edger rushers to tee off. The Cardinals will want him moving and the launching point will move. It's up to Quinn, Trevis Gipson, Cassius Marsh and possibly this week Bruce Irvin, to not necessarily sack Murray but keep him within the pocket where he is weakest and close it in around him. Likewise, the interior rush has to push back into his face, but this won't be as easy for the Bears without Akiem Hicks available, and it would seem he's still on the shelf as he hasn't practiced this week.

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