Joniak: Keys To Bears-Dolphins

Jeff Joniak
October 12, 2018 - 5:14 pm
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Bears square off against the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday. Here are my keys to the game:

 

Offense
Building on the explosive performance by Mitch Trubisky against Tampa Bay against a significantly better Dolphins secondary will be the test for the Bears quarterback. The Dolphins have intercepted an NFL-high 10 passes with a trio of well-regarded backend defenders. Cornerback Xavien Howard, nickel defender Minkah Fitzpatrick and safety Reshad Jones are opportunistic and have made their bones in the red zone forcing turnovers and a stingy 41.1 percent touchdown rate, which is tied for 8th in the league. Bears left tackle Bobby Massie will have his hands full with veteran defensive end Robert Quinn. Cameron Wake, the league’s top sacker since 2009, missed the week of practice with a sore knee and is doubtful. Look for the Bears to test the Miami linebackers -- in particular, Raekwon McMillian, who struggles in pass coverage. The Dolphins had the fifth-highest opponent passer rating in 2017, but this year boasts the league’s third lowest QBR. Getting the running game going against the Dolphins, who are allowing just 3.73 yards per carry, would go a long way in setting up Trubisky’s downfield passing game.

 

Defense

The Dolphins are vulnerable here against the Bears’ pass rush and top-ranked rushing defense. Tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James are talented cornerstones, but inconsistent, while the interior has lost multiple starters due to injury.  If the Bears can continue to quiet Miami’s two-pronged rushing attack of Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore, the one-dimensional impact could unleash the Bears pass rush. Head coach and play-caller Adam Gase uses a weapon-by-committee approach. Ryan Tannehill spreads it around on screens, speed gadget plays, and RPO’s -- in other words, everything the Bears defense has seen from its own offense.  The Bears must remain assignment-sure and challenge the Dolphins’ patience working the length of the field. Tannehill is on the injury report with a sore shoulder and is officially questionable. They do have plenty of speed to create enough concern.

 

Special teams

Jakeem Grant is speedy. He is also physical and tough. The Dolphins’ return specialist is all of 5-feet-7 inches tall, weighing 169 pounds, but he is dynamic and unafraid of contact. Grant has punt and kickoff return touchdowns this season and is atop the NFL in average in both categories. Grant’s 521 yards represents the highest total for any NFL player through five weeks since 2013 when Devin Hester of the Bears had 537. The Dolphins under Gase play close games going 16-5 in one-score games since he took over in 2016 and 3-0 this season. This is where the kicking game becomes a key. The Dolphins since 2011 under coordinator Darren Rizzi are No. 2 in the league with 21 blocked kicks and No. 1 with 10 blocked punts.

 

Intangibles

With temperatures expected to climb into the mid- to upper-80s and with high humidity, the Bears off the bye week head into the Miami furnace. While players have prepped all-week with hydration, the extreme conditions tend to be taxing. It is partially why the Dolphins have created a nice home field edge, going 13-5 in their last 18 home games. The Bears have to beat the heat in order to beat the Dolphins.  

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