Joniak: Keys To Bears-Raiders

Chicago plays Oakland in London on Sunday.

Jeff Joniak
October 04, 2019 - 3:07 pm
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LONDON (WBBM Newsradio) The Bears (3-1) will face the Raiders (2-2) at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Sunday. Here are my keys to the game for the Bears.

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Offense

-- This game sets up as a tug-of-war for the early lead. Both the Bears and Raiders play more efficiently with a quick start. For the Bears, the recipe is used to unleash their ferocious defense. For the Raiders, it’s all about getting to the running game and wearing down the opposing defense. 

-- The Bears are 11th in time of possession but have only scored a combined five touchdowns in four games. Moving the chains but not finishing drives challenges offensive efficiency.  

-- Bears starting quarterback Chase Daniel can look to exploit the middle of the field with tight end Trey Burton. He can also go to receiver Allen Robinson on slants and posts and checkdowns or designed throws to rookie running back David Montgomery and spitfire Tarik Cohen. Raiders defensive captain and enforcer Vontaze Burfict is serving the first game of a season-long suspension. The Bears must take advantage. 

-- The conditions are expected to be wet and possibly windy, so a ball-control ground game that has yet to materialize for the Bears in their first four games would be a nice feature against the Raiders.

Defense

-- For as much as the Bears' win against the Vikings last Sunday was billed as a "black and blue" showdown, this one against the Raiders promises to be even more physical.  

-- Oakland’s offensive line is massive and powerful, beginning with the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history in 6-foot-8 380-pound Trent Brown at right tackle and 6-foot-8, 325-pound left tackle Kolton Miller. Polished two-time Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson anchors the middle, and the guards are big and nasty, including four-time Pro Bowler Richie Incognito. The Raiders like to lean all the size on a defense to wear it down over the course of the game.

-- Stopping the run is what the Bears do as well as any defense in the league. The Raiders average nearly 130 rushing yards per game, highlighted by rookie running back Josh Jacobs, who averaged 5.0 yards per carry. He forced eight missed tackles against the Colts last week, so finishing will be big for the Bears, who have tackled well in their first four games.

-- The top weapon on the Raiders is tight end Darren Waller, who's quarterback Derek Carr’s safety net. Waller uses his size and length to seal off defensive backs and a catching radius to pluck the ball. He was unstoppable against the Vikings on Sept. 22, catching 13 of 14 targets for 134-yards. 

-- Getting to Carr isn't easy. He's accurate and gets rid of the ball quickly. Still, keeping him upright and clean against the destructive Khalil Mack will warrant a lot of attention from the blocking scheme devised by Raiders coach Jon Gruden. 

Special teams

-- The Bears had their best overall performance on special teams last week, creating important field position against the Vikings. Gruden’s Raiders are all about field position. They don’t want to be put in a bind, and they want teams grinding a long field. Everything must click for the Bears to avoid losing this battle.

-- Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro is off to a good start, converting 8-of-9 field-goal attempts and all six of his extra-point attempts. The knee soreness that has hampered him the last couple of weeks has dissipated, and he's looking forward to facing the team that brought him to the NFL.  

-- Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson somewhat untested with just four field-goal attempts this season. His accuracy dipped at Auburn in 2017, and he had two kicks blocked as a rookie last season.

-- If the kick returners are in a position to bring the ball out of the end zone, it could be quite the show with the ever present danger of Cordarrelle Patterson of the Bears and Dwayne Harris of the Raiders. Each is capable of taking it to the house, having combined for 11 kick return touchdowns in their careers. Harris has a 72-yard return this season.

Intangibles

-- The outcome of this game will trigger debate on the best way to plan and approach a trip to London. Oakland spent the entire week in London after winning in Indianapolis last Sunday. The Raiders are in the midst of a crazy five-game trip away from home spanning 48 days. After their bye week, the Raiders still have two more road games looming before returning home.

-- The Bears rescripted what they did in 2011 and what Nagy did with the Chiefs in 2015 in their trip to London, electing to leave Thursday night. My broadcast partner Tom Thayer is solidly behind the "get in and get out" approach. His experience playing in international preseason games gives him some insight into the entire process.

-- A big key is sleep. Not everyone is going to adjust the same way, and the individuals who conquer the effects of jetlag over the course of the next few days will stand the best chance of performing at a premium level.

-- It will be a sellout at Tottenham Stadium, and the expectation is a high volume of Bears fans will make the trip, including European NFL fans who have long loved the Bears. The word on the street is it will be a Bears-centric crowd. Every little bit helps.

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