The Chicago Bears will need to win along the lines if they want to end their two-game skid. Their opponent, the 4-2 Tennessee Titans, has also lost two in a row. One of these teams, though, has an offense that just has to get back on track. That team is not the Bears who find themselves near the bottom of nearly every major statistical category offensively. But there is hope they could find themselves victorious.
Bears Offensive and Defensive Lines Must Win
Who’s On First
Chicago has been healthy overall. But the offensive line has now lost three starters after Bobby Massie went down against the New Orleans Saints. He’s expected to miss about a month for what’s already one of the weaker units in the NFL. Chicago’s offensive line ranks a surprising 17th in run DVOA and 14th in pass DVOA, per Football Outsiders. but over the past few weeks (and even against the Indianapolis Colts) the pressure has been on.
Nick Foles was sacked nine times against the Los Angeles Rams and Saints. New Orleans had four different players record a sack. He was pressured 10 times (!!!) by Aaron Donald and the Rams two weeks ago. Sam Mustipher has been alright at center. Meanwhile, Jason Spriggs did okay filling in for Massie but was just put on the COVID list. Rashaad Coward has been abysmal, leaving some to call for Alex Bars, and may miss due to being a high-risk contact of Spriggs. Others were begging general manager Ryan Pace to make a move ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.
In Chicago’s favor, Tennessee’s defense has been rather toothless this season. They are 16th in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate but are tied for 31st with just seven sacks. They’re 24th in pressure rate and Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley have been a “waste” of $24.5 million. So the good news is Tennesse can’t generate a pass-rush. And they have allowed the sixth-most passing yards per game, the fifth-most passing touchdowns, and 4.7 yards per carry.
The bad news is they lead the league in pass deflections and are tied for third in interceptions with nine. Foles has thrown at least one pick in each of his starts. He’s also had several would-be picks dropped by defenders. They are also 10th in Run Stop Win Rate, putting a damper on David Montgomery’s prospects in this one.
A Runaway Train
Chicago is just outside the top-10 in run defense DVOA even without Eddie Goldman (or any significant replacement) in the middle. They held Alvin Kamara to just 67 yards on the ground, but Taysom Hill repeatedly gashed them in crucial situations. Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown combined for 25 carries and 118 yards. The Bears even let Ronald Jones top 100 yards in a losing effort. What do you think Derrick Henry is going to do?
Henry leads the league in carries, rushing yards, is 14th in yards per attempt, and hasn’t fumbled since Week 13 of last season. His no-nonsense style of running is a concern as those are the types of runners that have given the Bears trouble. The Titans are without Taylor Lewan, who tore his ACL a couple of weeks ago, but Ty Sambrailo has done a fine job in his place. Akiem Hicks, Mario Edwards, and Barkevious Mingo will need to be as disruptive as ever. Ditto for Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan.
The Bears had trouble containing Alvin Kamara through the air last week and while that won’t be a problem with Henry, he will command their attention. This is dangerous because Ryan Tannehill is fifth in touchdown passes and has only thrown three interceptions while taking just eight sacks. That is a tribute to the Titans offensive line (first in run blocking DVOA and fifth in pass blocking) and to Tannehill’s quick release. He’s ninth in time to throw, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
Kyle Fuller and Jaylon Johnson will have their hands full with A.J. Brown and Corey Davis. But tight ends Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, and MyCole Pruitt could make it a long day for Smith, Trevathan, and the Bears safeties. Jared Cook caught five balls for 51 yards and a score in Week 8. Smith is a better athlete and player than Cook at this point.
It’s All on the Lines for Bears
The Bears find themselves in a precarious situation. They banked some wins early so they are still in the playoff chase. But having gone from atop the division to on the outside of the second season looking in is less than ideal. Add to that how they have lost these last two games, it’s clear it’s all on the lines for the Bears this week.