Oakland Raiders vs Chicago Bears: Keys For a Raiders Victory!
John Doublin – Nov 25, 2011This Sunday, Carson Palmer and the Oakland Raiders will play host to Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California. This will be a battle of two teams squarely in the playoff hunt, but there can be only one winner.
The Bears will be looking to prove they can win without Jay Cutler, while the Raiders will try to prove to everyone that they are a legitimate threat to win their division and make the playoffs for the first time since Super Bowl XXXVII following the 2002 season.
Needless to sayâ€”both teams will be fired-up for this one!
What do the Raiders have to do to earn a victory? Can Oakland survive all the recent injuries that have plagued them? Who will step up for the silver and black and carry them to victory? Great questions, but we'll have to wait until Sunday to answer them.
That said, let's have a look at the keys to the game.
For the Raiders to score points on the Bears' 25th ranked defense, Oakland has to take advantage of the Chicago weaknessâ€”defending the pass. The Bears are ranked 11th against the run, but 30th against the pass.
When attacking the Bears sub-par pass defense, two critical things must happen: 1. Control Julius Peppers, and 2. Don't give up on the run.
Last week, second year left tackle Jared Veldheer won "the battle of the Jareds," allowing just two assists to pass rushing specialist, Jared Allen. For Palmer to take advantage of the Bears' secondary, Veldheer needs to have another great gameâ€”this time against perhaps the most athletic defensive end in football. Peppers is a freak of nature and Veldheer will have his work cut out for him.
If need be, head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Al Saunders can give Veldheer some help by leaving a running back or tight end in to help block the perennial Pro-Bowler. This didn't happen in the preseaon match-up between these two teams and Peppers showed Veldheer what a premier pass rusher can do to disrupt an offense.
The bottom line is that Palmer needs time to set his feet and the receivers need time to run their routes. Neither of which will happen if Peppers isn't accounted for on every, single play.
Assuming Peppers can be contained, Palmer the Raiders' receivers can have a huge day against the Bears' defense.
Another factor that will play into the success of the Raiders' offense will be for Michael Bush and the running game to be consistent and relentless.
Establishing the run against the Chicago front seven will keep them honest and not allow them to simply "pin their ears back" and get after Palmer in the pocket. In his three starts, Bush has forced opponents to take notice that he can get the job done. Despite being planned for, Bush has run roughshod over opposing defenses averaging 120.67 yards per game and 4.58 yards per carry.
Getting Bush, (or Darren McFadden if he's healthy) involved as early and often as possible will set up the play action pass and slow the Bears pass rush down enough that Palmer can feel comfortable standing in the pocket to survey the field.
To get the most out of the rushing attack, the Raiders can employ a similar strategy to the one that worked so well against the Vikings. Allow Peppers to get up field then run a delay or sprint-draw off left guard. However, this will only work if rookie Stefen Wisniewski can get to the second level and block either Lance Briggs or Brian Urlacher. Without solid play from the guards, (as Oakland got in Minnesota) this strategy won't work.
It's likely the Vikings will be ready for this, so there has to be a "Plan-B" in place. Should the delays and sprints fail, using traps and "wham" plays would be the next best thing.
With the loss of quarterback Jay Cutler, there is little doubt who the Bears will rely on to carry the offense. Matt Forte may be the most complete back in the league right now, (aside from McFadden).
Forte accounts for over 45 percent of the Bears' offensive touches. Stopping him will put all the pressure firmly on back-up quarterback Caleb Hanie and the Bears' receivers. This isn't as bad for the Bears as some would like to believe.
Hanie is a decent player and Oakland shouldn't sleep on him. He came into the NFC Championship game last season and led the Bears to two touchdowns against a very good Green Bay Packers' defense. Hanie can play, although not as well as Cutler.
The Bears don't have any real top-tier receivers and their offensive line may be the most glaring weakness of their entire team. The only real reason they've managed to earn a 7-3 record is because of the quick release of Cutler and the superb vision and will of Forte.
To attack the Bears' offense, the Raiders have to attack their offensive line. Gaining penetration, causing disruption, pressuring Hanie and stopping Forte before he can get rolling will be the single most important thing for the Raiders' defense to achieve.
The more pressure Oakland can apply to Hanie, the better off they'll be. In doing so, Oakland must keep in mind that Hanie can run a lot better than Cutler. Letting him out of the pocket to make plays with his feet could be disastrous for the Raiders. A repeat performance of the Denver and Minnesota games, (Oakland allowed an average of 94.5 yards rushing per game to Tim Tebow- and Christian Ponder-) will make for sustained drives and points for the Bears.
Maintaining gap discipline and making sure tackles will be critical for the Raiders' defense to be successful against the Bears' rushing attack. Forte can break tackles and make people miss, so Oakland can't allow him to get into the open field. Stopping him at the line, (or behind it) will play a big role for the Raiders.
Keeping Forte in check in the run game will almost certainly force the Bears to get him the ball in the passing gameâ€”something Forte is extremely good at. The Raiders' linebackers and safeties must keep him under control when he leaves the back field. Allowing him to run free, (as Arian Foster and LaDanian Tomlinson did previously) will not be ideal for Oakland.
This section is easy to analyze: DON'T KICK IT TO DEVIN HESTER! The last thing Oakland needs to do in this game is give the Bears cheap points and a morale boost by allowing Hester to change the game. This is not the time to "make a point" or "show no fear." Keep Hester's impact out of the game.
Hopefully for Oakland, Sebastian Janikowski is healthy and can eliminate the kick returns by kicking the ball through the endzone.
The rest of the special teams can simply do what they've been doing.
Coach Jackson had a meeting with the league about what he, (and many in Raider Nation) perceived as unfair officiating. Regardless of whether he was justified in his concerns, or whether there really is a "conspiracy" against the Raiders, Oakland isn't doing anything to help themselves in the penalty department.
Judgment calls such as personal fouls, pass interference and illegal contact aside, the Raiders are also killing themselves with holding calls, false-starts and silly mental errors. These are a matter of disciplineâ€”discipline the Raiders' players alone can fix.
On offense, control Peppers at all cost and take advantage the Bears' weak pass defense by running the ball and hitting play action passes. On defense, maintain gap discipline, make solid tackles, don't under-estimate Hanie and don't allow Forte to get going. On special teams, don't let Hester change the game with a big return and eliminate kick returns by getting touch-backs.
Overall, don't let the Bears bait you into stupid penalties and keep your coolâ€”no matter what.
Do all these things and the Raiders will win this game. Prediction: Raiders-24, Bears-14
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