My top 6 Keys to the 2010 Season (Part 2)
In a continuation of my earlier blog, which discussed 3 “No Brainers” for the 2010 season, I have identified 3 “not so obvious” keys to the Bears success. I decided to wait to post this until after the draft as several pieces relating to my Keys had to align with the players selected:
#4) The Defense MUST cause A LOT of Turnovers.
In 2006 the Bears defense caused a league leading 44 turnovers. 44! They were second only to the Baltimore Ravens in Interceptions with 24, and lead the league by far in fumble recoveries with 20. In addition, they forced 32 fumbles. There were several key guys in on this: Nathan Vasher was an intercepting machine, Charles Tillman was a fumble causing superstar, and even Brian Urlacher was involved with 3 INT’s.
Contrast this to the 2009 Bears who only forced 28 total turnovers. They were a negative 6 overall. To really highlight what this means: the 2006 Bears put the ball back in the hands of their offense a whopping 16 times more than the 2009 Bears did. That is 1 extra crack at a TD per game. Consider these stats:
-> The Packers ended last year with a +24 TO ratio, most coming after their slow start. They won 7 of their last 8 games.
-> The packers lost to the Cardinals in the playoffs 51 t0 45. They also lost the turnover battle 3 to 1.
-> Historically, the team who wins the turnover battle wins the game 72% of the time
-> In 2009, the top five teams in TO ratio had a combined record of 57-23
-> In the Cardinals amazing run to the SB in 2008, they had 13 takeaways. The only game the Cards didn’t win the turnover battle? The Super Bowl, when they gave it away twice and got it just once.
We know under Mike Martz system, Jay Cutler will be throwing a lot of timed patterns. Unlike Turners system, Jay will be doing a lot less reacting post snap and a lot more “trusting” in the system and letting it fly. This “could” lead to more INT’s. But as I noted in Part 1, that is not always the norm (as is erroneously reported). However, the key still remains the same, get the ball back, and put it in the hands of the team that should be high-flying and able to score – and that is the offense.
#5) Our defense MUST be Better on 3rd and Long:
Little known fact about 2009: The Bears defense was in the top 8 in yards allowed on first and second down. What this meant, is that statistically, over the course of the season, the Bears were able to put their opponents offense into 3rd and Long situations pretty often.
As I mentioned earlier, in the Cover 2, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT. You want to force the other teams offense into known passing situations, and switch to a nickel package and crush them. In 2006, this is when a majority of our interceptions occurred. In 2009, the exact opposite: This is when we gave up the majority of our yardage. The Bears were in the bottom qtr of the league in 3rd and Long.
A lot of this had to do with 3 factors: 1) No pass rush with only the front four, 2) Hunter Hillenmeyer had an inability to get back into coverage and take away the deep middle “hole”, and 3) Our Free safeties were never in the imx to break up the pass. Kevin Payne was repeatedly beat, and Al Afalava was too inexperienced to handle the Free Safety position.
What this all added up to was the Bears Defense was on the field a lot longer than they should have been, and the offense was sitting on the sidelines helpless. We lost the TOP battle by an average of 3+ minutes per game. This means our defense was on the field almost an ENTIRE GAME longer than our offense over the 2009 season. Compare that to the Vikings whose offense was on the field 5:21 more per game or a total of an HOUR AND A HALF longer than their defense.
Many things have gotten better for 2010: With Urlacher back, Julius Peppers in to push the passer, and Tommie Harris looking late in the season like a man possessed, the first of the 2 major issues could be solved. The Bears have acquired a talented and hard hitting free safety in Major Wright, as well as bringing back a well versed and excellent Safety in Chris Harris.
The main point all Bears fans should be noting is that the problems we faced on 3rd downs seems to be being addressed by the Bears.
#6) We need to shock the NFL.
This one may seem obscure, but let me explain. In 2009, pre-season, the Bears were actually picked to be a contender. The main reason was a very “blanket” statement that went like this:
“The Bears were 9-7 in 2008 with Kyle Orton as the QB, imagine how much better they’re going to be with a real QB in Jay Cutler….”
The Bears were picked to win the Superbowl by Sports Illustrated. They were picked to compete for the Division by almost every major publication. Even the NFL thought the Bears would be dominant as they received no less than 5 Night games ( (3) Sunday night games versus the Packers, Falcons, and Eagles, (1) Monday night game versus the Vikings, and (1) Thursday night game versus the 49ers). Not only that, but the Bears also played (5) 3:15 late start games.
In 2010, the bears did make a splash with the Peppers signing. But the NFL has mostly forgotten about the Bears. We have the obligatory Monday night games against the Packers and Vikings, and a Sunday and Thursday night game. But ALL the other games are nooners. The Bears are also already pre-season picks to finish 3rd in the division. Basically, the Bears have been written off.
The Bears need to come out and catch people looking the other way. We open against the Lions and we need to prove that even though the they got better in the offseason too, we still dominate. Then we play a Cowboys team in Dallas that has already looked past us an on to their in-state matchup with the Texans. Then we have the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, who we played EXTREMLY well against last season, but owe some payback to at home. Finally, we round out the 1st qtr of the season on the Road against a Giants team that has a lot of unaddressed issues.
We need to be 3-1 or 4-0 after the first 4 weeks and we need key wins Versus the Packers and Dallas. That will send a message and that will shock the NFL.