One key to a Bears victory Sunday over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is going to go unused.
Nick Foles is going to be the third-team quarterback and won't play, so Brady can breathe easy.
Foles still needs to get that congratulatory handshake for beating Brady last year again, but that's all ancient history now.
The problem facing the Bears in this game against a team they once called a division rival is a totally different scenario. It's how they can knock off the defending Super Bowl champions using a rookie quarterback.
If Brady quarterbacked a team that relies on its offense alone perhaps Tampa Bay would be more susceptible to upset but no one is calling Tampa Bay's defense weak. Though hurting in the secondary overall, they should have safety Antoine Winfield Jr. back to guard against deep passes. A front seven that has the Buccaneers ranked No. 1 against the run can take care of the rest.
Tampa Bay has been beaten this year, though not at home.
Here are three keys to the Bears doing the unthinkable and knocking off Tom Brady for a second straight year, but this time with a rookie quarterback and not a passer who seems to have his number.
Go ahead and laugh. This is no joke. The temperature during the game is going to hit 89 or 90 degrees. The Bears haven't had to endure that since mid-August at training camp. This coaching regime hasn't had to go through a game in that kind of heat and humidity after it has become accustomed to cooler weather in Chicago since they went to Miami in 2018 and were par-boiled by the humidity and heat in an overtime loss. This is a serious Tampa Bay advantage, much like the edge Denver gets with its thin air in the early season every year. The Bears did go to Jacksonville last year two days after Christmas, but Jacksonville, Fla. in December is like going to Peoria. Game-time temperature was 55 degrees. Matt Nagy's training staff is supposed to have this all handled during the week and on game day, but the players need to take advantage of the methods they have for combatting heat and humidity.
2. Move and Screen
Blitzing teams hate to chase a moving target. That's not to say they can't, but it's not as easy and blitzing leaves uncovered holes in the secondary to be exploited. Tampa Bay will come after Justin Fields, especially if they look at film of the Cleveland game. They would do it anyway because they blitz 39% of the time, more than any team in the NFL. If the Bears move the launch point repeatedly it's the Buccaneers who might be gassed by game's end in the heat and humidity. Vita Vea doesn't look like a guy who is going to run a marathon any time soon. Ndamukong Suh is in his mid-30s and end William Gholston is in his 30s as well. If Fields does some scrambling early in the game, especially from one side of the field to the other to throw passes, or takes advantage of man-to-man coverage or fire zones during blitzes by scrambling downfield for big yardage, it can also help wear out the Buccaneers defense. Get them moving laterally a lot during the game and they'll be the ones panting by game's end. The screen game can perform the same function. This is one game when all those wide receiver screens Matt Nagy loves could actually benefit the Bears. The whole idea is something like what the Bears did for years against Mike Zimmer's defenses, when he used the A-gap blitz repeatedly. The whole game plan should include movement, presnap and afterward. The one team that beat Tampa Bay was the Rams and their offense is one with plenty of movement in it, even if the Rams don't have a particularly mobile quarterback.
1. A Facial
Tom Brady needs to know the pass rush is coming and it's arriving up the middle in his face. The best way to beat a 44-year-old quarterback is to get pressure in his face. The Rams beat Tampa Bay and had the NFL's version of Thanos, Aaron Donald, in his face. Donald led the pass rush that had three sacks, a season high against the Bucs. This is not Aaron Rodgers, who scrambles away from pressure and throws downfield. Brady isn't scrambling away from Bears edge rushers Khalil Mack and Trevis Gipson by going around them. They'd track him down easily. He needs to step up and step into his throws. Otherwise they'll be sailing, and even Eddie Jackson might get an interception. When the Bears have a healthy Akiem Hicks this isn't a problem. There are few interior linemen who have better ability to bull-rush the quarterback and drive back the offensive line than Hicks. However, he has a groin injury. Even if Hicks plays he's not going to be at 100%. They may need to move Mack on occasion with stunts so he can come up the middle in Brady's face. Other than that, Bilal Nichols and Eddie Goldman need one of their better days pushing back the pocket and Mario Edwards Jr. absolutely must show he can do more than hit the quarterback late or taunt him. They need to make Brady look like a 44-year-old and not a 34-year-old passer.