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Possession Is Nine Tenths of the Win

Possessing the football any way they can do it is a Bears goal for beating Baltimore because the Ravens are the masters of doing this themselves.

The Bears have spent the entire week paying homage to Lamar Jackson.

It's obviously important to keep the Baltimore Ravens quarterback from running all over Soldier Field on Sunday but it's also nearly impossible to completely shut him down.

"Can make every throw, but at the same time, can bust a 90 yard run on you, make your whole defense look silly," was how Bears safety Tashaun Gipson put it.

Much focus has been made on the way Miami pressured Jackson and beat the Ravens 22-10 on a Thursday night but there are plenty of ways teams have managed to beat the Ravens in the four years since Jackson came there.  

Tackling Jackson and keeping him in the pocket is one way but blitzing and confusing him are two other methods. 

He's an unpredictable player, which is part of his mystique, so there is no tried and true method. The Pittsburgh Steelers have done a decent job by mixing up coverages, disguising and mixing in blitzes and perhaps the Bears should start there.

Actually executing basic tackles is another way.

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"You can kind of settle up and wait and he'll run by you," Jackson said. "You can go take your shot and he'll make you miss. So there's no right or wrong way of approaching him."

The best way might be to simply make him irrelevant and this is accomplished using all three phases of the Bears roster.

Here are the three keys to a Bears win Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens.

1. Pressure Jackson

This might seem obvious from the way the Miami Dolphins beat Baltimore. But Miami's tactics don't work for every team and the Bears are not a blitzing, man-to-man defense. This is pressure from their pass rush, sure, but also from linebackers and even pressure from their own offense. The best way to pressure Jackson is to make his task difficult to achieve. Joe Burrow and Cincinnati rang up 41 points on the Ravens and Jackson was pressured into keeping pace. He couldn't. The problem here is the Bears need to score. If they maintain the pace and effectiveness they finished the game with against Pittsburgh, they can put up points and force Jackson into pressured decisions. On the other hand, trying to come back against Baltimore is nearly impossible because Jackson's speed keeps the defense guessing. He isn't the best passer in the league, although he is better than in the past. But he will find receivers who are wide open and who are matched up man to man when defenses overcompensate to stop his running and the running of teammates. Maintaining a lead helps the Bears avoid being forced into man-to-man coverage and playing one-on-one football against a player nearly impossible to beat one on one.

2. Control First Down

Baltimore is a possession team. They have been NFL possession leaders three of the last four years. They were good at it before Jackson arrived, finishing eighth and 10th the two previous years, then became total ball hogs with Jackson. Keep the ball away from the ball possessor and let their quarterback squirm on the sidelines. That's just another way to put pressure on Jackson. A key to possession time is getting yardage on first down because it makes third down easier or lets them avoid it all together. This is all easier said than done for the Bears. They are 28th offensively on first downs and average only 4.9 yards per play. Their defense is even worse on third downs and is 30th, allowing an average of 6.4 yards a play. Remember those figures for down the line when coaching decisions are made at the end of the season because teams can't operate under such a burden and it's become more and more of a problem for this team. As for this week, the only way the Bears can play ball control against the ball-control team is to win first down on both sides of the ball because it will make third down manageable. David Montgomery becomes huge for his team this week because he can let them play keep-away, and so, too, can Justin Fields.

3. Play Jackson as a Runner

One of the big problems defenses have with Jackson is they worry he's going to beat them by passing on the run or by running and pulling up and throwing. He isn't Patrick Mahomes. He isn't Aaron Rodgers. He definitely doesn't have the pinpoint accuracy throwing on the run that Fields owns. Jackson is a runner who scares defenses into leaving his receivers open. When they're caught in no-man's land between him or the receiver, he burns them with a big run. They need to swarm the ball, forget the pass on the run and leave that to safeties or defensive backs and treat Jackson with physical disdain. The onus in this game is on Bears safeties Gipson and DeAndre Houston Carson to prevent really big plays downfield while the rest of the defense worries about tackling Jackson and doing it hard.

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