3 Keys to Beating the Broncos
The offensive output against the Packers was disappointing, and that's putting it lightly. The offense was sloppy, unbalanced, and any rhythm got derailed by penalties. It was by far the worst offensive game under the Nagy regime, but there is only one data point for the 2019 season, so I have to give the Bears the benefit of the doubt and call that game a wash. The defense has picked up right where it left off, making Aaron Rodgers look like a below-average quarterback. It's time to move forward, and the Bears are heading to Denver to play an old friend. The Broncos season also started with disappointment in a loss to the Raiders. Denver was the favorite, giving two points to the Raiders at home, and the Raiders have had their fair share of distractions. I thought the Broncos would take care of business, but they were underwhelming. The Raiders came out swinging and controlled the game from start to finish. Week one never defines a team's season, so it's hard to get a gauge on how good each team will be in 2019, but I was able to identify a few keys to beating the Broncos.
1. Conditioning, Training Staff and Depth Players
The Broncos are 49-8-2, at home, in the first two weeks of the season. Aside from having a dedicated fan base that brings the noise, altitude is in their favor. They practice and train in the high altitude, which automatically gives them a huge advantage. If you have ever gone hiking in the Rockies, you understand how hard it is to catch your breath. Higher altitudes equal lower air pressure, which makes it harder for oxygen to enter your vascular system. Sprinkle in the blistering Colorado sun, and you get an overwhelming advantage for the home team. We all saw how tired the Bears were during that Miami game last season, and how the sun was beaming down on the Bears sideline. Last year, Nagy admitted the Bears staff needs to find ways to prevent exhaustion in situations like these. The Bears set up overhead shade during the Miami game, but they did it too late in the day. The sun was beaming down on the field all morning, which caused the ground to heat, and heat rises. The plan is to get things prepared before the sun comes out, and have ground coverage to go along with the overhead coverage. Luckily humidity won't factor in as it did in the Miami game, but altitude is the focus. The Bears only let up a few big plays against the Packers, and it was when they didn't have their starters on the field. The Bears will need to use rotational players more than they did against the Packers. While the defensive line and interior linebackers have quality depth, the Bears are a little thin at pass rusher and on the back end. Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, Kevin Tolliver, Deon Bush, and Duke Shelley all need to be ready to play extended minutes.
2. Exposing Denvers Interior and Defensive Backs
The Broncos have elite players spread throughout the defense, but they aren't the dominant force that helped lead them to the super bowl. Vic Fangio is an "evil genius," when it comes to disguising coverage, and he understands this is Trubisky's weakness. I expect Fangio to disguise coverages for the entire game. The last thing the Bears need to do is get predictable and evade the running game. Bears fans hope that Nagy learned this against the Packers. The Raiders rushed for close to 100 yards against the Broncos. The Broncos weren't giving up huge runs, but outside and inside zone plays were effective. The cutback lanes will be available, and there is nothing wrong with moving the ball down the field 4 yards at a time.
The Broncos also don't expect CB Bryce Callahan or ILB Todd Davis to play on Sunday, which will open things up a little more. We all want to see the running game established, but we also saw Derek Carr carve up the Broncos secondary. If the Bears keep things balanced, it will slow down their elite pass rush, and keep the linebackers honest. Then Nagy should start taking shots downfield. The Bears have speed on offense that the Broncos cannot match on the back end.
3. Sure Tackling in the Secondary
The Bears pass rush is feared across the league. They are dominant upfront, and the Broncos understand this. They have an old school head coach in Vic Fangio, so they will still be willing to run at the Bears front. Until the Bears get gashed by a team on the ground, I will confidently say they will have no problem taking care of the run. The Broncos will have to start throwing the ball. Flacco isn't a mobile quarterback. He was sacked three times against the Raiders, and their pass rush hails in comparison to the Bears. The Broncos will have Flacco get rid of the ball quickly. The Bears secondary cannot let a 4-yard slant turn into a 30-yard gain. The Bears are usually in zone-coverage, but I feel it would be beneficial if they play a little more press-man coverage in this game. It will give the Bears a little more time to rush the passer, but can also leave them vulnerable for big plays, which is why the secondary needs to come to play this week.
It won't be an easy game, and if the Bears start 0-2, I can only imagine what the narrative will be. I hate to call a week two game a must-win situation, but it does feel that way. Nagy needs to keep things balanced and take time off of the clock with every single drive. Three and out's cannot be a theme. An elite defense can look regular when they are exhausted, and the conditions in Denver are working against them already.