Publish date:

Bears Need to Let it Ride in Vegas

Beating the Raiders in their Vegas home will require the Bears to play a full game and take some real gambles, especially on defense.

There are always keys to beating a team's strategy, strength or weakness.

The Bears on Sunday must also defeat the persona of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Long-time Raiders fans from the Oakland area might not like it but this team truly fits the Las Vegas scene to a tee.

It's boom or bust in Vegas, win big, hit the jackpot, or go home in the dumps. The Raiders play like they're from Vegas, but this team has always performed in this manner even in the Oakland days.

In olden times I'd watch with fascination in the old AFL games when Daryle Lamonica heaved bombs downfield to Warren Wells or then Freddie Biletnikoff would catch TDs from Kenny Stabler. Their games had wild swings beyond belief.

The AFL's Western Conference and later the AFC West always played the most wildly entertaining games and the Raiders even now are playing exactly this way.

The Raiders played this way against the Bears in London two years ago. So it's nothing new, and the Bears more than anything else have to be prepared to handle these huge swings in momentum in this game.

The Raiders were down 14 against Baltimore and later after they fought back to tie at 17, they trailed again before winning in overtime.

The Raiders were losing 14-0 to Miami early, stormed back and took the lead, blew the lead and then won in overtime.

The only easy game they've had was the win over Pittsburgh and even in that one after taking the lead early they fell behind, took a 16-7 lead, and allowed the Steelers within 16-14 before they put it away.

In their only loss Monday night, the Raiders trailed 21-0, were dead in the water and out of nowhere rose up with TD passes of 10 yards to Hunter Renfrow and 3 yards to Darren Waller. Suddenly they had the ball and a chance to tie before the Chargers eventually put away a 28-14 win.

The only way the Bears win this is if they come prepared to play a full game and handle these big swings in momentum.

Now, here are the three keys to actually accomplishing what they want on the field strategically rather than emotionally.

1. Tackles for Loss

The Raiders offense will give the Bears a difficult time if they're allowed to run and then throw play-action passes. They did it in 2019. They'll tear up the secondary with Waller, Renfrow and Henry Ruggs but not if Derek Carr is running for his life from Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. The way the Bears make sure this happens is by stuffing the run behind the line of scrimmage. Josh Jacobs is a momentum back. He's not necessarily a lateral runner or a runner who freezes tacklers in the hole like David Montgomery. Let him build up momentum and he'll destroy a defense. If the Bears can get good penetration against the run, start making tackles for loss, get Jacobs moving laterally, they'll strip the Raiders of the play-action game. Getting Roquan Smith shooting into gaps more early on plays can help this. The passer and receivers are talented enough to make a passing attack work by itself against the Bears but the Vegas offensive line is a shambles and can't stop pass rushers who are teeing off. Without play-action to freeze Bears pass rushers, Carr would look like he did in the first half against the Chargers if not worse.

2. Blitz more but especially early

It's out of character. The Bears have been miserable in two road games defensively and offensively, but their defensive front seven shouldn't be easy to handle even on foreign turf. The best way to accomplish this is throw the unexpected at the Raiders. The Bears rank 28th in the percentage of plays they blitz on defense. A game in a noisy dome, in a city where all-or-nothing gambles are common, would be perfect strategy. Throw the book at the Raiders offense, blitzing the run, blitzing the pass. This would give Ruggs plenty of opportunities to get open for deep balls but this is a task Eddie Jackson could handle. He's having trouble tackling this year but staying with a fast receiver deep, especially one from Alabama like he is, should be a task he can tackle. Man coverage or fire zone should be the order of the day for a team that blitzes normally only 16.6% of the time.

3. Move Justin Fields

This should always be a priority but the movement can work against this defense because the Raiders emphasize cover-3 zone so much. Their defensive coordinator is Gus Bradley, who was a coordinator for the old Legion of Boom. The defenders want to drop to their landmarks in zone and wait for the ball to come. What defenders really hate in such coverage is if the quarterback moves around, rolls right, runs around in the pocket, and changes the launch point. Scramblers per se don't have much success against this coverage because it's zone and the defenders are always facing the quarterback. However, a passer who moves around from side to side before throwing can render their landmarks useless. Defenders wind up gluing themselves to the closest receiver they can locate. They essentially have to play man-to-man defense and are not accustomed to this. When Aaron Rodgers has done this against the Bears zone under Lovie Smith and then under Mel Tucker, and even under Vic Fangio, it proved completely frustrating. Fields' pinpoint passing gives him a chance to beat zone coverage, provided he can get the pass protection.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven