Marc Trestman, who won two Grey Cups in his five CFL seasons before the Bears hired him, presides over the NFL’s second-highest scoring offense (29 points per game). Only the Broncos have scored more points this season. Chicago’s lowest point total this year is 18, against the Saints.
Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer do a good job of making use all of their weapons, blending a mix of run and pass and keeping defenses on their toes with an array of formations, end arounds, crossing patterns and a variety of traps, draws and lead runs.
Like Chip Kelly’s Eagles, the Bears operate frequently out of 11 personnel (three wide, one back, one tight end) intended to spread the defense and open up quick screens and helmet-on-helmet blocking for the run game. But the Bears do more motions and substitutions than the Eagles do, getting their three best targets -- receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett -- moved around to create diversions.
The twin towers, Marshall (90-1,185) and Jeffery (80-1,265), are more go-getters than burners. Jeffery’s route running isn’t as sharp as Marshall’s, but his ability to go up and get the ball is special. Slot wideout Earl Bennett has really good hands and knows how to create across the middle.
Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher won’t have as many problems with double moves and fly patterns as they did against the Vikings' wideouts, but the challenge will be in matching the athleticism of the Marshall and Jeffery, especially on jump balls and passes thrown to their outside shoulders.
Tackling in the back end has been problematic for the Eagles at times this season, especially for Williams. Look for the Bears to capitalize with quick strikes and some intermediate routes that can turn into huge gains with one or two missed tackles.
Bennett can be a problem for Mychal Kendricks, who has struggled in coverage against some of the league’s more physical tight ends. Kendricks can still get outmuscled within the five-yard contact zone, especially on out routes.
Jay Cutler is a tight-window passer who isn’t afraid to throw into coverage, which is his gift and curse. He has the arm to wait a second longer for his receivers to fend off defensive backs, but he can just as easily have a two-interception game and absorb some unnecessary hits. He has 10 picks in 290 attempts this year. His backup, Josh McCown, threw just one INT in 220 attempts, starting five games while Cutler was injured.
Cutler is a free agent after this season, so this is a big stretch for him, as the Bears are vying for the NFC North title. He’ll be 31 next year, hasn’t proved to be durable enough and has always been knocked for his sourpuss on-field demeanor. On the flip side, he’s completing a career-best 64 percent of his passes this year and has career highs in passing yards per game (241.4) and passer rating (89.8).
More importantly, Cutler is taking far fewer sacks behind an offensive line that had been the team’s weakest point every year under former coach Lovie Smith. Rookie right guard Kyle Long, the 20th overall pick who played under Kelly at Oregon, and free-agent signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod are two of the line’s four new starters. Left guard Matt Slauson, a former Jet, has been a pleasant upgrade for them. Veteran center Roberto Garza has been a Bears fixture in the middle since 2005. The weak link is rookie right tackle Jordan Mills, a fifth-round pick whose game needs refinement. The Bears use former Jags lineman Eben Britton as an extra blocker in several different formations. Cutler, sacked 38 times last year (and an NFL-most 52 times in 2010), has been dropped only 13 times this year.
Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis likes to throw X-blitzes at risk-takers like Cutler -- stunting Demeco Ryans behind Kendricks for extra-man pressures designed to funnel the pass rush in the quarterback’s face, complementing the edge rush from Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry. The Bears can struggle against lineman stunts, so expect the Eagles to keep playing up-front games with Bennie Logan, Fletcher Cox and Curry.
The guy Davis probably spent the most time game-planning against this week is running back Matt Forte, who doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the league’s best running backs (see story). Forte, whose versatility conjures images of Brian Westbrook, is as dangerous out of the backfield as he is running between the tackles. He has the third-most offensive yards from scrimmage this year, behind LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles, and leads all NFL running backs with 66 catches. The one knock against Forte is blitz pickup. His backup, Michael Bush, gets an occasional carry here or there.
To find out how the Eagles' offense matches up with the Bears' defense, click here.