Tale Of The Tape: Chicago Bears At St. Louis Rams
- QuarterbackThe Bears moved back into a tie for first place in the NFC North with the Detroit Lions, and much of the credit must go to backup quarterback Josh McCown, who is completing more than 60 percent of his passes and he has a 5-0 TD-interception ratio. McCown should start this game and perhaps one more to let Jay Cutler (groin and ankle) heal fully.The Rams have had several ups and downs this season and it hasn’t seemed to matter whether Sam Bradford or Kellen Clemens was playing quarterback. With Bradford out for the season, Clemens has taken over and he has been competitive. Clemens has a decent arm and usually reads defenses well, but he makes mistakes when faced with pass-rush pressure.
- OffenseThe Bears have one of the most versatile and well-rounded offensive teams in the league. Matt Forte excels as both a runner and a receiver. Brandon Marshall can dominate defensive backs because of his size, strength and consistent hands. Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett are solid complementary receivers. Jeffery excels at running reverse plays.The Rams have not had much of a running attack until recently when hard-running Zac Stacy started to assert himself. He could have a solid game against the Bears’ vulnerable run defense. Rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin is one of the fastest players in the league and he is starting to assert himself. Tight end Jared Cook is a dependable third-down receiver.
- DefenseThe Bears have suffered a slew of injuries on defense this year and that’s one of the reasons they rank 24th overall and 29th against the run. They have lost much of their leadership without linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) and cornerback Charles Tillman (triceps). Defensive end Julius Peppers has 29 tackles and 4.0 sacks and has appeared to slow down this season.The Rams have shown the ability to put significant pressure on opposing quarterbacks because Robert Quinn (12.0 sacks) and Chris Long (6.5 sacks) have the speed to turn the corner. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is the team’s leading tackler with 75 stops and he also has seven passes defensed. Outside linebacker is an underrated player who has 64 tackles and three forced fumbles.
- Special TeamsThe Bears have had a few poor performances on special teams this year, but they appear to have straightened out that part of their game in recent weeks. Devin Hester is once again a dangerous punt returner, while PK Robbie Gould makes almost every clutch kick he faces.The Rams have done a solid job in the return game this season. Austin has lightning-quick speed and the ability to change directions in an eye-catching manner. He could make a big play as a return specialist in this game. Strong-legged Greg Zuerlein has made 15-of-17 FG attempts.
The Bears played their Week 11 home game against the Ravens with an attitude that they would do whatever it takes to win the game. They must play the same way against the Rams or it could slip away. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor