Bears/Broncos keys to the game

The Bears will try to stop the bleeding today when they face off against the red-hot Broncos. We go over everything Chicago must do on both sides of the ball to pick up a victory on the road.


Matchups to watch

C Edwin Williams vs. NT Broderick Bunkley
Bunkley is a run-stopping machine. He's nearly impossible to move and his upper body strength allows him to shed blockers and be a force inside. He typically lines up over the left guard, meaning it will be up to Williams, and likely Roberto Garza, to keep Bunkley out of the running lanes. Williams has struggled as a run blocker since becoming the starter. If the Bears are going to run the ball consistently, which they desperately need to do, Williams has to step up and be a mauler.

RT Lance Louis vs. OLB Von Miller
Miller is more of a hybrid DE/LB. The rookie is fifth in the NFL in sacks (10.5). He's dealing with a thumb injury but will play. He's lightning fast off the edge, yet powerful enough to bull rush. Louis struggled mightily last week, after playing the best of any lineman the previous six weeks. He needs to forget about his awful performance against the Chiefs and get Miller blocked. If Miller wreaks havoc in the backfield, Chicago's offense has no chance.


T Lance Louis
Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

-Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is very creative is in his sets and blitz packages. He rotates his group between 3-4 and 4-3 looks throughout the game, and isn't afraid to bring pressure with any of his linebackers or secondary players. Blitzes are extremely creative, in the style of Gregg Williams in New Orleans. As such, communication amongst the front five will be crucial. Sports Authority Field will be rocking, so the team needs to fall back on the silent signals they practiced this week when noise was being pumped onto the practice field. If confusion arises, Caleb Hanie is going to have a long day.

-Coordinator Mike Martz needs to take a page out of Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy's playbook and run the ball, then run it again, and then run it some more. The Broncos are averaging 40 rushing attempts per games the past seven contests. Martz needs to follow that blueprint and feed the ball to Marion Barber. The hard-nosed runner should be able to wear down a defensive front that has surrendered an average of 133 yards on the ground to opposing offenses the past month. The Broncos are going to stack the box, so many runs will get stuffed, but Martz has to stay committed throughout the game. Late in the contest is when Barber's smashmouth running style will pay off.

-LT J'Marcus Webb needs to have a big day. Louis will have his hands full with Miller, yet Webb faces an equally significant challenge with DE Elvis Dumervil, who leads all Denver defensive linemen with 6.5 sacks. Webb has been inconsistent blocking the blind side all year. He'll need to have one of his best games if Hanie is going to have enough time to move the ball in the passing game.

-Don't throw to Champ Bailey. Whoever he is covering, most likely Johnny Knox, stay away from him. The key will be to let Bailey take away Knox and then use Earl Bennett to eat up the rest of the secondary. Hanie has been obsessed with Knox in his first two starts but he needs to realize that Bennett is his most-dependable pass catcher.


Matchups to watch

LB Brian Urlacher vs. QB Tim Tebow
The Broncos run a lot of spread option, with Tebow carrying the ball as often as he hands it off. His 468 yards are the third-most in the NFL amongst quarterbacks this year, behind only Michael Vick and Cam Newton. It will be up to the linebackers, specifically Urlacher, to make sure Tebow is forced to the air. He doesn't have lightning speed but he's built like a fullback (6-3, 236). The key is to have a player shadowing him at all times. And when the opportunity to hit him arrives, Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers have to lay the lumber. This kid needs to have his clock cleaned early so he thinks twice about running the ball the rest of the game.

CB Charles Tillman vs. WR Eric Decker
The Broncos aren't a pass-heavy team and will likely be without WR Eddie Royal today, so don't expect a prolonged aerial attack. Yet when the team does pass, it will likely be to Decker, who is really the only viable receiver on this roster. Tillman will presumably cover him most of the day. Decker doesn't have outstanding speed but he's a big player (6-3, 218) who can work every level of the defense. Tillman has to make sure Denver's only pass-catching threat doesn't do damage. If that means rolling safety help over the top, so be it.


CB Charles Tillman
Jason O. Watson/US Presswire

-Stay on top of RB Willis McGahee. He's been very good this year once he gets on a roll. His six games of 100-plus yards this season is tops in the league. The Broncos run early and often, so making sure McGahee doesn't get in a rhythm is crucial.

-Usually, pressuring an opposing quarterback is essential. While that's still important with Tebow, making sure he doesn't have lanes through which to scramble is even more important. Tebow doesn't go through three to four reads on a pass play. Typically, if the first guy isn't open, he takes off running. As such, for Chicago's rushers, getting in his face isn't as important as staying in their lanes. If any of the Bears' defensive linemen can't get pressure on a particular play, then they need to stop and hold their ground. If after a few seconds they're not already in the backfield, break down and make sure Tebow doesn't have open paths through which to run.

-The Broncos have an athletic yet relatively inexperienced offensive line. Rookie Orlando Franklin starts at right tackle. DE Israel Idonije had a big game last week and needs to repeat that performance. He'll be coming from Tebow's blind side, as he was last week with Kansas City's Tyler Palko. If Idonije can play big and exploit the rookie, Tebow will have a hard time getting comfortable in the pocket.

-To that end, it might not be a bad idea to get DE Julius Peppers on the blind side as well. He should have a field day against Franklin.

-Do not sleep on the pass late in the game. The Broncos have a tendency to wear down defenses and lull secondaries into a false sense of security, then hit them over the top with a deep pass in the fourth quarter. Chicago's back-end players, safeties Chris Conte and Craig Steltz, who is replacing the injured Major Wright, cannot focus too much on run support. Late in the game, they must stay cognizant of the deep pass and not allow any receivers behind them.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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