Joniak: Keys To Bears-Broncos

WBBM Newsradio Staff
September 14, 2019 - 12:11 pm
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By Jeff Joniak--

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(670 The Score) The Bears (0-1) and Broncos (0-1) will both be looking for their first win of the season when they square off in Denver on Sunday afternoon.

Kickoff is set for 3:25 p.m. Sunday, and the game can be heard on air on WBBM Newsradio 780 and 105.9 FM. You can also listen on desktop computers here.

Offense

-- The Bears offense is looking to bounce back and do everything it didn’t in the opener against a defense that knows the scheme as well as anyone because of Vic Fangio.

-- The Bears have to find balance in their attack. I expect more designed runs using running backs David Montgomery, Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen.

-- In two-back sets, the Bears gained better than six yards per play in a season-opening loss to the Packers, nearly doubling the output on the rest of their snaps.

-- They have to perform better on first down to stay ahead of the chains. The Bears averaged 9.27 yards to go on second down against the Packers. That’s tough.

-- Improving on third down will keep drives alive and create the rhythm missing in the opener. It made for a tough and frustrating game for coach Matt Nagy to call. 

--Cleaning up the mistakes and getting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on the move a bit will smooth out the operation.

-- It's a big game for the offensive line. Broncos pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are dangerous and will have the home crowd gassing them up. The Bears can help left tackle Charles Leno Jr., right tackle Bobby Massie and the rest of the unit in protection by forcing the Broncos to play the run and having Trubisky make quick decisions with the ball.

-- The Broncos didn't hit Raiders quarterback Derek Carr one time nor did they pressure him even once in their season-opening loss. It was the first time Denver didn't get any sacks, hits or pressures since 2014.

-- Trubisky has led the Bears to an 8-1 record following games in which he had a quarterback rating of 77.2 or lower. He finished at 62.1 against Green Bay.

Defense

-- A ferocious start by the front seven set the tone last week, and the defense hopes to accomplish the same against the Broncos -- and this time take the ball away.

-- The Broncos offense is in the same Mike Shanahan tree that's being used in Rams, 49ers and Packers. The Bears excel at stopping the run, and they will have to get down to business against Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay, who averaged 5.4 yards per carry last season, and against fellow second-year back Royce Freeman, the bigger of the two players. Denver heated up in the second half in Oakland.

-- Veteran Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked three times by the Raiders, and the Bears know exactly where he is in the pocket. He's protected by penalty-ridden left tackle Garett Bolles and injury replacement Elijah Wilkinson at right tackle. The Bears' pass rush should be tough to deal with for the Broncos.

-- Bears edge rusher Kahlil Mack had one of his best games ever on Dec.13, 2015 in Denver when he played for the Raiders. His stat line included five sacks, seven hits on the quarterback and a forced fumble. 

Special teams

-- Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro is intrigued by the setting of the game this week. The thin air of Denver is enticing for every kicker. Pineiro will be someone to study during pregame warmups. Decisions on distance won't be an issue in Denver. He has a big leg and great range.

-- Denver special teams coordinator Tom McMahon is completely comfortable with kicker Brandon McManus, who made three field goals but missed a 64-yard attempt just before halftime in the opener. McManus did miss eight kicks in 2017 and has missed 5.6 attempts per season on average.

-- The Bears are hoping to unlock the return potential of Cohen on punts and Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoffs. Denver’s coverage unit sprung a leak on a 72-yard kickoff return by Oakland’s Dwayne Harris on Monday.

Intangibles

-- Denver’s record at home in September is crazy. They're 22-1 at home in the first two weeks of the season since 2000. While the team is different every fall, that's some serious Broncos success that has carried through for years.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.