Bears-Rams preview and predictions
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org September 22, 2012 1:40AM
Rams receiver Danny Amendola caught 15 passes for 160 yards last Sunday against the Redskins. | Seth Perlman~AP
RICK MORRISSEY: 21-14, Bears (Season: 2-0)
RICK TELANDER: 31-21, Bears (2-0)
DAN McGRATH: 27-21, Bears (1-1)
SEAN JENSEN: 34-20, Bears (1-1)
JOE COWLEY: 34-10, Bears (2-0)
MARK POTASH: 41-21, Bears (1-1)
Updated: September 23, 2012 12:40AM
RAMS AT BEARS
Time: Noon Sunday at Soldier Field.
TV: Fox-32 (Dick Stockton, John Lynch, Jennifer Hale).
Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM. •
Line: Bears by 7 1/2.
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL
On the ground
Matt Forte (sprained ankle) won’t play, but Michael Bush still gives the Bears — and their offensive line — a chance to get back on their feet with a dedicated running game. Bush has rushed for 96 yards on 26 carries (3.7-yard avg.) with two touchdowns in the first two games. Starting Chilo Rachal for Chris Spencer at left guard indicates a desire to establish the run. As Jim Miller of CSNChicago.com pointed out, Rachal’s strong suit with the 49ers was as a physical run-blocker, a style tailor-made for the powerful Bush. The Rams have allowed 159 yards on 33 carries (4.8-yard avg.).
In the air
Jay Cutler usually responds well to ‘‘good and bad’’ performances, like his 28.2-rated outing against the Packers. In eight games after sub-50 ratings, he has thrown for 19 touchdowns with an average rating of 103.1. The Rams are 24th in pass defense, but neither Matthew Stafford (one TD, three INTs, 69.5) nor Robert Griffin (one TD, one INT, 86.3) posted gaudy numbers. The Rams have only two sacks but still get a lot of pressure, especially from Chris Long, who had five pressures against the Skins and will be a good test for Gabe Carimi. Robert Quinn vs. J’Marcus Webb will bear watching.
The last time they squared off, Marshall had three catches for 34 yards with the Dolphins against the Titans in 2010, and Finnegan was penalized for delay of game when he fired the ball toward the sideline after a 10-yard catch.
WHEN THE RAMS HAVE THE BALL
On the ground
Underappreciated Steven Jackson (30 carries, 111 yards, 3.7-yard avg. in 2012) gets his yards against the Bears, but it hasn’t made a difference in two previous games against them. Jackson suffered a groin injury last week and is questionable. Rookie Daryl Richardson (17 carries, 103 yards, 6.1-yard avg.) is the kind of versatile, big-play back who has given the Bears trouble. ‘‘He gets downhill in a hurry,’’ linebacker Brian Urlacher said. The Bears’ defensive line has been a strength so far and matches up well against a short=handed Rams offensive line.
In the air
After struggling in his second NFL season in 2011 (70.5 rating), Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, has had ratings of 105.1 against the Lions (1 TD/ 0 INTs) and 117.6 against the Redskins (3 TDs/1 INT) and is third with a 112.4 overall rating. Danny Amendola, a poor man’s Wes Welker, is the Rams’ leading receiver with 20 receptions for 230 yards and a touchdown in two games. The Bears’ pass defense has been solid so far, but Lovie Smith might need a solid X’s-and-O’s game to keep Bradford from dinking them to death.
Amendola was targeted 16 times and caught 15 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown against the Redskins. He also had a fumble returned for a touchdown. Jennings is an excellent tackler with three interceptions, but it will take a team effort to win this battle.
The Bears have had 10 days between games, a long time to rue a disappointing effort against the Packers that proved difficult to put behind them. Lovie Smith’s teams usually respond well in these scenarios — at home against a rebuilding opponent — and Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are great at picking low-hanging fruit. But after the tumult of the Cutler-J’Marcus Webb incident and its aftermath, the Bears face an even bigger challenge than usual.
Special-teams coaches don’t like to be embarrassed. The week after Dave Toub snookered the Packers with an ingenious punt return last season, Packers special-teams coordinator Shawn Slocum used an onside kick against the Broncos in the first quarter that ignited a Packers rout. More than likely, Toub won’t resort to trickery after being fooled by the Packers’ fake field goal at Lambeau. But his ire alone should have the Bears’ special teams at a peak-performance level.