Ray Bradbury's classic novel of censorship and defiance, "Farenheit 451", begins with the line:
"It was a pleasure to burn."
For the Oakland Raiders, it's a pleasure to run.
The Silver and Black have the third best rushing offense in the league. On Sunday, they will surely lean on RB Michael Bush, who is coming off two straight 100-yard performances. The Chicago Bears rank 10th against the run, yet the defense will have its hands full trying to shut Bush down.
Darren McFadden typically starts at running back for the Raiders. Yet he's been dealing with a foot injury the past three weeks. As a result, the Raiders have heaped the entire workload on Bush's shoulders, giving him more than 30 carries in each of the past two weeks. It's safe to assume they'll be handing off to him early and often this Sunday.
RB Michael Bush
"It starts with [Bush]," said Bears coordinator Rod Marinelli. "He's so clutch, downhill player. Physical. It's what they want. He's a big back. He's a physical back. The offense is geared [to his strengths] with all the powers, and counters."
Bush (6-1, 245) is a bruiser. He has thick, powerful legs that churn constantly. He can rack up yards after initial contact and opposing defenses normally need more than one player to take him down. Near the goal line, he's almost unstoppable.
Yet he's not just a between-the-tackles runner. He has good speed and can turn the corner when given the opportunity.
"It's a downhill offense, and it can go outside," Marinelli said. "They have enough speed to get outside."
In his first three starts of the season, Bush has rushed for 362 yards on 79 carries (4.6 avg.) with two touchdowns, averaging 120.6 rushing yards per game. Against the Chargers two weeks ago, he amassed 242 yards from scrimmage, marking the highest yardage total posted by a Raider in nearly 50 years.
"They're a running football team," said coach Lovie Smith. "They let you know that. What that is, that's just a challenge to the defense to be sound and get ready to tackle."
For Chicago's defense, the key will be staying in their gaps and all 11 players flying to the football. Linebackers Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Nick Roach must be patient, as Bush has great cutback ability. The Raiders boast a big offensive line, meaning nose tackles Anthony Adams, Stephen Paea and Matt Toeaina need to eat space all day and force plays outside, where Chicago can utilize its team speed.
If they can force Oakland to become one dimensional, and put the game in quarterback Carson Palmer's hands, there will be plenty of opportunities for sacks and turnovers. But if Bush gets going, the Raiders will be able to do a lot of damage using play action.
"This is a really outstanding running football team," Marinelli said. "The backs, a big offensive line. And then there's always the threat of the deep ball, with the play action. But you got to hang your hat on one thing: you have to get the run stopped. And they're good at it."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.