Joniak: Keys To Bears-Rams

Kickoff is set for 7:20 p.m. Sunday from the Coliseum.

Jeff Joniak
November 15, 2019 - 4:05 pm
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LAKE FOREST (WBBM Newsradio) -- The Bears (4-5) visit the Rams (5-4) on Sunday night. Kickoff is set for 7:20 p.m. and can be heard on WBBM Newsradio 780.

Here are my keys to the game.

Offense

-- The Bears need to prevent Aaron Donald from wrecking the game, and all it takes is a play or two per half to do so.

-- Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is doing what he can to create one-on-one matchups for Donald, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. It produced five sacks for Donald in the last four games.

-- The Bears' entire offensive line will be tasked with stopping Donald and the resurrected Clay Matthews, who's dangerous in using terrific instincts and his edge quickness to create pressure. The Rams are second in the league in pressures and first in quarterback hurry percentage, according to Pro Football Reference.

-- On the first offensive play from scrimmage 11 months ago against the Rams, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky scrambled up the middle for nine yards. Then on third-and-11 from the Bears' 34-yard line, he scrambled right for 13 yards and a first down. If he can pull off one of those 10-plus yard runs a quarter against the Rams this time, it would serve the offense well.

-- Trubisky has only four rushing first downs and one rush of 10 or more yards this season. He picked up 29 first downs with his feet in 2018, 14 or 10 or more yards.

-- This is cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s fourth game with the Rams, and his likely showdown with former Jaguars teammate Allen Robinson should reveal a lot about the chess match. With Ramsey, the Rams are playing more aggressively in man coverage and blitzing a little more. The Bears have to use that aggressiveness to their advantage and hit on some big chunk plays.

-- The Bears ran the ball well in their win against the Rams last season, but Los Angeles is stingy this season -- especially at home in allowing just 3.0 yards per carry.

Defense

-- The Bears need to free outside linebacker Khalil Mack from the chains of the Rams' protection plan. They don’t want Mack to wreck their game plan either. One or two big rushes will be impactful.

-- The Bears' defensive front seven has to play with its collective hair on fire. Getting a retooled Rams offensive line on skates early would set the tone for the day. Pushing the pocket from the inside out could provide a bonanza of opportunities.

-- It starts with preventing the Rams from establishing a ground-and-pound run game with Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown. The Rams thrive and flourish with play-action, but they need the run game to rev up that engine.

-- Rattling Rams quarterback Jared Goff with consistent pressure is phase two. A quiet pocket will lead to trouble for the Bears.  

-- Goff’s favorite target is Cooper Kupp. The Steelers shut him out with double-team attention last week, crippling the Rams' chain-moving passing game and complicating their third downs. Kupp is an outstanding slot receiver, which will create to a premier matchup against Bears nickel cornerback Buster Skrine. 

-- Kupp gets the Rams out of trouble on third down, averaging 17.4 yards per catch and collecting three touchdowns in such situations. 

-- In five of the last six games, the Bears have allowed at least five third-down conversions. Overall, they've allowed 35-of-86 conversions for a 40.1 percent conversion rate. The Bears need to get off the field against this Rams offense.

Special teams

-- Bears punter Patrick O’Donnell needs to outplay three-time All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker. 

-- The Bears are punting a lot and if that pace continues, O’Donnell’s leg is an important weapon in the fight for field position. He leads the NFL with 19 punts inside the 20-yard line. In the warm weather, the ball should boom.

-- Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein is deadly inside of 55 yards. He already has made kicks from 58, 56, 55, and 53 yards this season. Again, field position will matter.

Intangibles

-- All the Bears' stars came out in their 15-6 win against the Rams last season. They need to shine brighter than the Rams' stars Sunday.

-- There's a good chance a large number of Bears fans will be making some noise. The Bears must reward their trip to southern California with some big plays to get excited about and take over L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

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