Film breakdowns often lead coaches to bury themselves in tactics.
Bears coach Matt Nagy can do this as much as any in the occupation but had to marvel when he watched the athletes in the Los Angeles Rams defense.
"Forget scheme. When you see the players and the pressure that they can create, from all four or five of those guys on that D-line and outside linebackers, they make it hard," Nagy said.
It's probably no easier for the Bears on the other side of the ball, but scheme becomes an even bigger consideration there because of the reputation Rams coach Sean McVay has for offensive design.
Still, there are positions on both sides of the ball where the Bears figure to have manpower advantages.
The problem for the Bears is most of the places where they usually have dominance are covered by equally adept Rams.
For example, the Rams have Jalen Ramsey covering Allen Robinson and Darious Williams on Darnell Mooney, or Akiem Hicks being blocked by David Edwards, who was one of their better blockers last year. Even Khalil Mack will face a strong blocker in Rob Havenstein.
Here are three matchups the Bears need to exploit because of strong edges they have.
Bears DL Bilal Nichols vs. Rams C Brian Allen
Considering the ankle injury to nose tackle Eddie Goldman, it's more likely Bilal Nichols would receiver first-team reps at nose instead of rookie Khyiris Tonga. When Goldman opted out, the Bears had their most success last year when Nichols played the position. It wasn't his strength, but Nichols has come on strong as a player overall and going against Allen could be a break the Bears defensive front needs. Allen, a fourth-year player, has started only nine games in his career and those were in 2019. He had a Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade of 45.4 and 67.7 run-blocking grade, so it wasn't a smashing debut. The Rams' line overall is loaded but the center is easily the most unproven spot if not the weak link because Allen didn't play a down last year, although he was on the roster. Blitzing up the middle might be a wise choice for the Bears because of the indecision it can cause an inexperienced player. The Rams could have moved standout guard Austin Corbett to the position when center Austin Blythe took less money to leave for Kansas City in free agency and they'll try to see if they can get the type of good fortune with Allen that the Bears got from Sam Mustipher when they dipped into their practice squad for a starter.
Bears ILB Roquan Smith vs. Rams RB Darrell Henderson
Henderson was part of a 1-2 rushing attack and the Rams would like to duplicate this approach with recent acquisition Sony Michel. However, it's been less than a month that Michel came on board and he has never been much of a receiver. Henderson was supposed to be able to do this but hasn't. Henderson has 771 career yards in two years and Michel averaged 771 yards a year for New England for three seasons. Both are speed/strength runners who have done enough to be threats behind a strong line. Smith has become both a tackling machine and a fast, attacking player who covers well and blitzes. He made it onto the All-Pro team last year with a season deserving of Pro Bowl nomination, although he didn't receive it. Speed and explosiveness are always apparent in Smith's game, if not violence. Smith has taken over control of the defense on the field, as well. It's his defense now when it used to be Danny Trevathan's. As his control of it on the field has increased, so has the effectiveness of his play.
Bears WR Marquise Goodwin vs. Rams CB David Long
This should read whoever the Bears bring into the slot vs. Long. The Bears have placed an emphasis on getting versatility from receivers so they all can play any position this season, though it's Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson who are best at it. Goodwin's speed alone is a threat to the Rams deep. Long is a player who had just 73 pass coverage snaps last year in his second season and is in much the same situation Duke Shelley was with the Bears when camp started. The Rams think he can cover but a 45.4 Pro Football Focus grade last year for those 73 plays and passer ratings against of 117.5 in 2019 and 154.2 in 2020 when he played suggest he has work to do and is a player the Bears could exploit. It could be Damiere Byrd doing the exploiting, as well as Goodwin, Robinson or Mooney. Or against zone coverage the tight ends could be attacking Long's area.