When you think about the history of the Chicago Bears, the first word that pops in your mind is defense. The Bears have always been about lining up and playing defense in a sound, physical style. This current group is really is no different in their approach, it's still about Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. Where the Bears have helped themselves the most is adding players like Julius Peppers, Henry Melton, Major Wright and rookie Shea McClellin.
The heart of this group is the front seven and the way that they are able to control the game. Defensive coordinator Rob Marinelli doesn't have to show all kinds of blitz packages to get things done. He is able to call a game where he lets this front attack the opponent by getting off blocks, being in the right spot and tackling when they have to opportunity to do so. Brian Urlacher is still the leader of this defense despite this being his 13th season in the league. He and Lance Briggs play close to the line and you see them always taking steps going forward. When the ball is handed off in the running game, they are right there to meet the blocker or ball carrier in the hole. Both are physical, take on linebackers. Where teams try and take advantage of them is in the play action game getting routes behind them. The Colts, Packers and Rams all tried this. Of the two linebackers, Briggs is the better cover man so you see him work against Murray and Witten in routes.
Along the defensive front, Julius Peppers and Henry Melton are the main problems that the Cowboys offensive coaches are going to have to deal with. Julius Peppers has been an outstanding pressure player for a long time in this league. He is like DeMarcus Ware in that you never see the same rush from him. Technique has always been good against blockers. Hands and feet work well together. Will line up at either end so both Smith and Free will get a crack at him. Will also play inside in the nickel and rush from the tackle spot.
Henry Melton plays inside as a defensive tackle and he is an explosive up field player. Is a hard guy to deal with when he is on the move. He is a combination of quickness and power. Don't let the fact that he is only 260 pounds affect what you think of him, plays like a much bigger man at the point of attack. The inside three of the Cowboys had problems with the inside three of the Buccaneers last week, Nate Livings, Ryan Cook and Mackenzy Bernadeau cannot afford to allow that to happen again.
In the secondary, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are the corners with Chris Conte and Major Wright at safety. Both Tillman and Jennings are perfect for this scheme because they both do a nice job in off coverage and working with the safeties but also when they do play man staying in position on routes. You don't see receivers running free with this group. Jennings is the quicker of the two when it comes to breaking on the ball. Tillman simply put is a ball hawk. He has a real knack for interceptions and fumbles. Ball carriers have to be careful around him because he is always punching for the ball trying to knock it loose. The Cowboys receivers will be in a fight in this game because these corners don't play soft. They don't give you much room in coverage but they also attack when playing in the running game.
Offensively the Bears have been struggling with protection of Jay Cutler who in turn has been struggling with interceptions. For all the physical tools that Cutler processes he really makes questionable decisions with the ball. If ball security is the most important key in the Bears offensive plan, you would never know it with Cutler. He has tremendous confidence in his ability to fit balls in windows that are questionable, don't get me wrong, he makes some unbelievable throws but he also makes some where you know that drives Lovie Smith crazy. To Cutler's credit, he is one of the toughest quarterbacks that I have ever had the chance to study. He will stand in there down after down delivering the ball when the blocking all around him is marginal at best. He doesn't take a deep drop and he is not the most mobile quarterback but will stand right on the spot and wait for routes to open up. He will throw the ball at all arm angles, the Cowboys secondary has to be ready for the ball coming out of a crowd.
Along the offensive line, much like the Cowboys, the Bears have had their share of struggles too. They are ranked 29th in the league in sacks per attempt. Across the board there has been problems but the most glaring spot is at left tackle with J'Marcus Webb who is just not a quick footed guy. Right tackle, Gabe Carimi was drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft but he has yet to live up to his billing and there have been times where is has been downright bad. Center Roberto Garza has played the majority of his career at guard and when uncovered they use him that way by pulling him on the edge. There are spots along this line that Rob Ryan will attack with his packages.
Michael Bush has been in the lineup at running back replacing Matt Forte who is still dealing with a high ankle sprain from the Green Bay game. Bush is nowhere near the quality of back that Forte is and Lovie Smith has not ruled Forte out for this game but I think it's really a long shot for him to play. When you watch Bush play, he is not that explosive like Doug Martin was for the Buccaneers. Where you have to be aware of Bush is when they throw him the ball on screens which is something that they will try and do on first downs. He is a big man to have to try and bring down in the open field when one on one.
In the off season, the Bears went out and added two receivers to the offense to try and help Cutler. Brandon Marshall was a former teammate of Cutler in Denver where he had some of his most productive seasons. Marshall will line up all over the formation. Have seen him play on the outside but in the slot on both sides. Not afraid to run his routes inside and catch balls on the move. Against the Rams they even went empty backfield brought him in motion across the formation then threw the ball to him in the flat and let him turn it up the field. Last week, the corners had to deal with the size of Vincent Jackson, this week its much of the same with Marshall but also rookie Alshon Jeffery.
Where you generally see Jeffery is when the Bears go with their three wide receiver package. Jeffery doesn't run as well as Marshall or Earl Bennett but there are times where Jay Cutler is looking his way. Where Jeffery was able to make some plays in the pre-season, he has yet to really break loose in a regular season game. Had a bad drop on a contested slant against the Rams where he should have made the plays. The Bears also like to use Devin Hester in different formations. You will see Hester in the slots for screens and out wide on reverses trying to get him the ball in space and letting him make things happen.