Chicago had 40 team sacks in the regular season and added six more in two playoff games. Meanwhile, the Colts allowed a league-low 15 sacks in the regular season and just five in three playoff games.
So something has to give in this matchup.
One particular individual battle that should be very intriguing will be Colts Pro-Bowl left tackle and 9-year veteran Tarik Glenn against the Bears' rookie pass-rush specialist Mark Anderson.
Chicago head coach Lovie Smith recently told the Chicago Sun-Times, "Teams have been noticing (Anderson) a lot more, putting more players on him to block him and things like that. That can keep his sack total down, but he's played well throughout.
"Some guys are just good outside pass rushers, and Mark is one of them."
During the regular season, the 23-year-old Anderson was the NFL's rookie sack leader with 12. He finished second in the voting for the league's defensive rookie of the year behind Houston Texans linebacker Demeco Ryans. A pure speed-rusher who only sees the field on passing downs, the 6-4, 250 pound Anderson is a bit of a liability against the run and lacks strength to continually hold up at the point of attack. As a result, the amount of action that Anderson and Glenn actually see against each other during this game will hinge upon down and distance. If the Colts are doing a good job of staying out of 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long, Anderson's participation will be limited.
Speed rushers have had success against Glenn when able to get into his upper body quickly, and as a result get the big tackle off balance. Glenn counts on getting anchored properly to use his big body and long arms to his advantage.
|Colts OT Tarik Glenn (Getty Images/ Tom Pidgeon)|
That punch will be a key ingredient to slowing a speed-demon like Anderson. The rookie also has good initial burst and snap-anticipation -- two important characteristics that make him even more dangerous as it'll be more difficult for Glenn to actually land a good initial punch. Besides speed, Anderson has that Jevon Kearse type feature of long arms and a wide wingspan. He does of nice job of using those long arms to keep blockers off of his body.
Chicago will be relying on Anderson's speed to create all sorts of havoc on the edges. He was a big factor in Chicago's win over New Orleans in the NFC Championship with a sack and a forced fumble. In that contest the Bears lined him up on both sides of the field, so Colts RT Ryan Diem will also be called upon to slow Anderson down. As Colts fans observe how Anderson is used by Chicago, it will remind them of how the Colts used Robert Mathis' in previous years.
An interesting thing to watch for will be if and just how often the Colts ask a tight end to help their offensive tackles with Anderson. The Colts know the more time they can give Manning, the harder it is for defensive backs to stay true in coverage. And that increases the likelihood that Manning will hit pay dirt downfield. So double-teaming Anderson might be a main ingredient in this weekend's game plan for the Colts.