Week 5 Preview: Panthers Defense vs Bears Offense

How's this for a headline? Jay Cutler does not scare me this week. In fact the way our defense has been playing, I feel fairly optimistic this week that our defense will continue to give our team a chance to win.

Team Stats - Game Averages

PTS

YRDS

PASS

RUSH

Chicago's Offense

17.3

289.3 (25th)

220.5 (17th)

68.8 (31st)

Panthers Defense

21.8

334.3 (18th)

220.8 (16th)

113.5 (19th)

In many ways the Bears offensive performance has been very similar to the Panthers this season, with one very notable exception: a team record of 3-1. However, the Bear have offensive line questions (check), they have a history of a strong running game but are struggling at 31st in rush yards per game (check), and their wide receivers are average at best (triple check).  For comparison on how the Bears' offense has been performing here are both teams offensive stats from NFL.com.

Panthers O & D Stats vs Bears Offensive Stats

Panthers

Bears

Panthers Defense Allowed

TOTAL FIRST DOWNS

57

61

83

FIRST DOWNS (Rushing-passing-by penalty)

15 - 36 - 6

11 - 39 - 11

31 - 45 - 7

THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS

19/56

10/47

24/59

FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS

4/9

1/4

3/3

TOTAL OFFENSIVE YARDS

1033

1157

1337

OFFENSE (Plays-Average Yards)

234 - 4.4

219 - 5.3

280 - 4.8

TOTAL RUSHING YARDS

413

275

454

RUSHING (Plays-Average Yards)

104 - 4.0

84 - 3.3

136 - 3.3

TOTAL PASSING YARDS

620

882

883

PASSING (Comp-Att-Int-Avg)

54 - 118 - 6 - 5.9

75 - 117 - 4 - 8.4

84 - 140 - 5 - 6.5

SACKS

12 Allowed

18 Allowed

4 Earned

FIELD GOALS

3/3

7/8

8/8

TOUCHDOWNS

5

7

9

(Rushing-Passing-Returns-Defensive)

2 - 3 - 0 - 0

0 - 6 - 1 - 0

2 - 7 - 0 - 0

TIME OF POSSESSION

24:57

27:57

35:03

TURNOVER RATIO

-5

+3

 

In comparing our two offensive performances, while the Bears have the advantage in first downs, the Panthers actually have more earned first downs (non penalty) 50 to 51. On the other hand our defense has give up a total of 83 first downs. Both teams struggle on third down (33% Panther O, 22% Bears O) we give up 41% to our opponents. We also haven't stopped a 4th down attempt on three attempts against us. We have give up the same amount of passing yards as the Bears have earned and have been thrown against 140 total times (ranked 11th) while bears have only attempted 117 (ranked 24th) (we have attempted 118, ranked 23rd). The Bears offensive has struggled to say on the field with time of possession at 27:57 (ranked 26th) but our defense hasn't been able to shrink our opponent's time on the field at 35:03 (ranked 3rd worst). Of course, it doesn't help that our offense can't sustain a drive either.

Cutler became very familiar with the ground at Solider Field last season being sacked 35 times in 2009. The trend continues this year. He's already been sacked 17 times in four games; of course 9 of those came Sunday night against the Giants (and in the first half). If there is any team that our defensive line will get something going, this could very well be the week. However, with that said, our defensive line doesn't have the proven talent that the Giants have and Chicago will be putting everything into preventing a repeat.

I would remiss not to mention the other returning former Panther this week, the only one the offensive side of the ball, Frank Omiyale. He joined the Bears after the 2008 season and is currently their starting RT. Last season he played in all 16 games for Chicago and started 12 of them. He last season with the Panthers (2008) he appeared in 10 games and started one.

While the Bears have 7 total touchdowns this season, they haven't had a single one from their running game (6 passing, one return). However, our defense has also give up 7 passing TD and only by rushing. Their biggest success, according to football-outsiders.com, is when they rush off left end and lead the league in yards from that position. However the other routes (left tackle/guard, center, right tackle/guard, right end) they rank in the low 20s in successful yards.

As I mentioned before their wide receivers are average at best. Sure Hester still a thread on special teams but he doesn't drive fear into the hearts of opponents when used as a receiver (boy does that sound familiar). Forte and Olsen lead the team in receptions (16 and 12), Olsen and Knox lead the team in targets (21 and 19), and Knox and Forte lead the team in yards (258 and 209).

My Keys to the Game:

Defensive Ends-Getting to the QB

Unlike last week where I thought the secondary would need to step up, this week the defensive ends will need their best game. They should be plenty hungry after seeing Chicago's offensive line totally shredded last week. Getting a few early pressures and hopefully sacks will rattle Cutler enough to be off his game.

Short passes-stop the dump offs

Cutler loves the big play and that is one reason he was sacked so many times last week, waiting for his receiver to get down field. However, I fully expect a slightly different plan this week and expect to see more screens and short crossing routes from the receivers. We have had trouble defending the short quick routes as a cover-2 defense is designed to take away the deep threat.

Cover the TE

This goes along with the short passing game as often TE will attempt to find the soft spot in the middle of the field. While all of their offensive touchdowns are through the air both Forte and Olsen have 5 of the 6 between them (Hester has one passing and one returned TD). When/if they get to the red zone covering these two will be vital.

Key Player - Jon Beason

With Beason playing the weakside and the middle on nickel and dime packages, he will be called upon to stop to cover the TE and screens. While it might be odd to pick our best defensive player as my sleeper pick, I do feel that he will play the biggest role in keeping the Bears offense in check.

 

The Panthers tampa-2 does fit well against the typical Mike Martz offense game plan, which is usually the deep ball threat. However, I would look for a few more short passes to limit the offensive line mistakes and protect Culter. While there are many similarities on our offensive struggles, the defensive scheme is actually completely opposite. Instead of stacking 8 or 9 in the box as teams are doing against us, against the Bears you take away their passing game and their drives should stall.

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