Bears/Chiefs Keys to the Game

The Bears will be looking to pick up the team's eighth win of the season this Sunday at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. We go over everything Chicago must do to pick up the victory.

OFFENSE

Matchups to watch

LT J'Marcus Webb vs. OLB Tamba Hali
Hali leads the team with 7.0 sacks – sixth best in the AFC. He'll come on the rush early and often, trying to disrupt Chicago's passing game from the back side. Webb is slowly improving yet still struggles at times. He cannot have a mediocre game. If he plays poorly and Hali is able to get to the quarterback, the Bears' offense will labor to move the ball. Hali is also good at stripping the ball, so pressure from the blind side could lead to crucial turnovers. Webb must be up for the challenge.

QB Caleb Hanie vs. himself
All three of Hanie's turnovers last week could have been avoided. Each interception was a pass that should have never been thrown – although I place as much blame on coordinator Mike Martz for the third pick. Hanie needs to make the right decisions, take what the defense gives him and not force passes. In essence, he needs to manage the game. As long as he doesn't lose this one by throwing dumb picks, the Bears shouldn't have any problem picking up the win.

Keys


QB Caleb Hanie
Jason O. Watson/US Presswire

-Pass protection will be important as always. Yet Hanie has shown good ability to tuck it down and gain yards. Some of this Sunday's biggest gains on the ground could be the result of pass protection breakdowns. Hanie shouldn't be afraid to scramble, especially when Kansas City brings one of its exotic 3-4 blitz packages. If the defense rushes six or more, that should leave plenty of running room if Hanie can step through the blitz and get to the second level.

-Kansas City ranks 26th against the rush, so the Bears will have no excuse for not being able to run the ball. Martz needs to feed both Matt Forte and Marion Barber the entire game. Giving up on the run and forcing Hanie to win the game through the air will play right into the Chiefs' hands. Pound the ball until they stop it, then pound the ball some more, then finish the game by pounding the ball.

-In order to be successful on the ground, the Bears must get two players blocked every play: NT Kelly Gregg and MLB Derrick Johnson. Gregg is a squat, powerful player who can be highly disruptive on middle runs. C Roberto Garza needs to be quicker than he's been of late and use angles and leverage to seal Gregg from the ball carriers. Johnson leads the team in tackles by a large margin. He's a tackling machine who can fill the interior gaps and chase down backs to the sideline. Guards Chris Spencer and Edwin Williams must do a good job tracking Johnson and taking proper angles when trying to block him at the second level. If the Bears can limit these two players, they should be able to run all day.

-Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers is very hard to throw on. It's likely whoever he covers on Sunday will not be posting big numbers. Yet on the other side, Brandon Carr can be exploited. Man coverage is not his bread and butter. Chicago needs to isolate him on the outside. It's likely Kansas City will roll safety help Carr's way, meaning the Bears need to run the slot receivers and tight ends right at FS Kendrick Lewis, so he's forced to stay in the middle of the field. That will create space deep down the sideline, of which both Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett should be able to take advantage. Even Roy Williams can succeed with this strategy.

DEFENSE

Matchups to watch

NT Matt Toeaina vs. C Casey Weigmann
The Chiefs like to run the ball – they rank 10th in the league in rushing. It's mainly a between-the-tackles scheme, with power rusher Jackie Battle leading the way for a three-headed rushing attack. This means Toeaina must be stout inside. He cannot get moved around and allow running lanes in the interior gaps. Weigmann is a 16-year veteran who will use every trick in the book to keep Toeaina at bay. This battle inside will a long way toward how successful Kansas City is running the ball.

CB Charles Tillman vs. WR Dwayne Bowe
When the Bears use man coverage, it will be Tillman's responsibility to shut down Bowe, who is Kansas City's only real threat in the pass game. Tillman needs to jam him at the line and stay in his hip pocket. Bowe is near the same talent level as Vincent Jackson and Calvin Johnson, two players Tillman has been asked to shut down the past three weeks. Johnson went well (7 rec., 81 yards, 0 TDs, on 19 targets), Jackson did not (7 rec., 165 yards, 1 TD). Tillman needs another "Johnson" game and not a "Jackson" game.

Keys


DE Julius Peppers
Jason O. Watson/US Presswire

-It's pretty simple for Chicago's defense this week: don't allow the big play. Since Matt Cassel was lost for the season with a broken hand, the Chiefs' offense has been awful. QB Tyler Palko has thrown six interceptions and zero touchdowns the past two games. The running game has been stifled by eight- and nine-man fronts. The team has scored just one touchdown in its last 45 offensive possessions. Palko will start but it's likely Kyle Orton will see time at quarterback as well. Either way, the Bears need to just continue what they've been doing – flying to the ball, limiting the deep pass, staying in their lanes, wrapping up – and they should be fine.

-Julius Peppers has been a beast the past month. Now he'll face an undersized line that has had protection issues of late. Peppers will line up across from LT Branden Albert most of the day. Albert is a solid technician but he lacks athleticism and lateral quickness. Peppers should have a field day on Sunday.

-With the Chiefs expected to run more than they pass, it would behoove the Bears to use S Major Wright up near the line for most of the contest. At least for as long as Palko is playing, Wright should slide into the box and serve as a fourth linebacker. In that way, the defense should be able to stifle the run and force Palko to beat him.

-Turnovers derail the Chiefs. They have given the ball away just six times in their four victories. In their seven defeats, the Chiefs turned the ball over 17 times. A few well-timed interceptions or fumble recoveries may be all the defense needs in this one.

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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.

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