Opponent Preview: Chicago Bears
St Louis Rams
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Some of these Bears are getting a little long in the tooth.
The Chicago Bears defense is widely recognized as one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL over the past decade, headlined by LBs Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Under Urlacher’s watch, the Bears have made the postseason four times and reached the Super Bowl in 2006.
But Urlacher, 34, and Briggs, 31, are rare remnants from those dominant days. They, along with CB Charles Tillman, also 31, represent the primary defensive holdovers from those Bears teams that experienced success in the 2000s.
The new school of Bears defenders are hoping to mesh with the old guard and bring the Bears defense back to where it used to be. DE Julius Peppers signed as a free agent before the 2010 season and has registered 21 sacks in 34 games with the club. First-round pick DE Shea McClellin has infused new blood into the defense, making 1.5 sacks in his first two NFL games.
If the defense of the Bears is old and busted, though, the offense is the new hotness. QB Jay Cutler is the poster boy for the Bears offense, and it’s not always positive. Cutler has a reputation as a gunslinger in the mold of Brett Favre, both with his propensity for making big throws and his tendency to throw interceptions.
Cutler has had an especially Jekyll-and-Hyde first two games of the season. After throwing for 333 yards and two touchdowns in a week one win – the good – he was intercepted four times in a week two loss at Green Bay. Rams coach Jeff Fisher knows what Cutler is capable of.
“I think if you look at his history, he’s pretty good at bouncing back,” Fisher said. “His issues weren’t his issues, they were, the fact that they played a pretty good defense in Green Bay. So, he’ll bounce back and then just hope it’ll take at least another week to bounce back.”
He’s got the weapons to do it. Cutler was reunited with WR Brandon Marshall this season, and the Bears are hoping they’ll develop similar chemistry to what they shared while in Denver. Rookie WR Alshon Jeffery and slippery WR/return man Devin Hester will also get some looks in the passing game.
The Rams might catch a break in that do-it-all RB Matt Forte has been held out of practice all week with an ankle injury he sustained in Green Bay. If Forte can’t go, veteran RB Michael Bush will get the lion’s share of the handoffs. Bush, a physical back, is no slouch either, so the Rams defensive line will have its hands full regardless of who’s in the Bears backfield.
The one clear advantage the Rams have is their defensive line against the Bears offensive line. Cutler was sacked seven times against the Packers in a game where he was visibly frustrated with his pass protection. Rams defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn will have their chances to get to Cutler; how they take advantage of them may be the difference between a win and a loss for the Rams.
Nathan Grimm is a Rams correspondent for KMOX.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Nate_Grimm.