Ryeguy812 has it figured out. To stop the New England Patriots offense this Sunday, all the Chicago Bears have to do is "just keep watering the surface at Soldier Field. If the Patriots can't stand up, they can't score."
We can cross that one off the list. Never would the Bears, nor the Chicago Park District, intentionally sabotage Soldier Field's sod to their own advantage. Ever. Pshaw.
This week's installment of "Have at It" made you the Bears' defensive coordinator. (Take a well-deserved break, Rod Marinelli.) We asked you to help devise a game plan for slowing down a Patriots offense that is averaging 40 points per game over the past month with a quarterback in the middle of an MVP season; Tom Brady has thrown 27 touchdown passes against four interceptions and leads the NFL with a 109.5 passer rating.
Given those numbers, ZTAclerk suggested summoning Jobu, that mystical voodoo doll of elite sports performance. But as it turns out, Pedro Cerrano isn't sharing. So we'll need to figure this one out on our own.
Much of your discussion centered around whether the Bears should stick with their traditional Cover 2 defense or whether they should play more man-to-man than normal against the Patriots' highly efficient short passing game.
Indeed, according to ESPN Stats & Information, nearly 75 percent (287-of-385) of Brady's passes this season have traveled 10 or less yards in the air. He's thrown only 66 passes between 11 and 20 yards in the air, fewer than 21 other NFL quarterbacks, and only 32 of 21 or more yards -- good for No. 20 in the NFL.
"The only way to beat Brady and the Pats is to get to him with four down linemen and play the Cover 2 better than they have all year," wrote jmrushton. "Take those short routes, wrap up, and keep your eyes on a swivel for a tipped ball. Tighten up in the red zone and make the Patriots kick field goals all day rather than score TD's."
The Randy Moss trade left the Patriots without a legitimate deep threat, believes texastufsob, and thus opens up the possibility of man defense: "[The Bears] should be able to play more man to man coverage leaving smaller windows for Brady to throw."
RestoreTheRoarMan suggested that too much of either scheme would spell doom for the Bears: "If the Bears run man to man, they will get destroyed. It's just a bad idea. Running zone all day will of course kill the Bears as well, since they're going against Brady. They need to mix up their coverage schemes ... and utilize a lot of motion and trickery."
With strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa out because of a knee injury, and backup Nick Roach limited by a hip ailment, the Bears might be forced into their nickel grouping more than normal. That would be fine with Seandogg85, who wants to see playmaking nickel back D.J. Moore on the field as much as possible: "For the Bears to perform well, they will probably need to play in the nickel package quite a bit (gotta love some DJ Moore, subbing out the lb)."
Seandogg85 and others suggested the Bears will need a big boost from their special teams. Wrote 501flow: "Field position will be especially crucial for this one, specifically on the kicking end. The Bears have to keep the Patriots on their side of the field. If they can win the special teams phase the game is theirs to lose. They control their own destiny. The Pats deep threat is questionable and bad field position weakens the potency of a short passing game and run game."
My take? I could be wrong, but I don't see Marinelli or coach Lovie Smith going much beyond their comfort zone in terms of play calls. They believe in simplicity of approach and value execution more than misdirection.
So I think they'll be awfully tempted to make this a strength-on-strength matchup: Can the Patriots outmuscle the Bears' front four and find holes in the Cover 2? Or will the Bears speed up Brady's clock enough to create big-play opportunities for the back seven?
Frankly, if I were the Bears, I would do the same thing. They're not a trick-based defense. They are a punch-you-in-the-mouth defense. I think they'll try to wear down the Patriots with mostly the same scheme that has brought them to 9-3 this season. Will it work? Put it this way: It has a better chance than something they haven't done much of this season.