Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has stated repeatedly over the course of his 13-year NFL career that if he had it his way, every game would be played at noon on a Sunday. You get the impression Jerry Jones disagrees. When the Bears travel to face the Dallas Cowboys at Jones' Texas-sized cathedral on Monday night, Jones will get exactly what he wanted when he built this palace: a primetime kickoff slot and a national audience fawning over his estate.
Cowboys Stadium isn't brand new anymore, but a few years of use hasn't washed away any of the luster. Football still feels bigger inside of this monstrosity. It's perhaps the only stadium that truly captures America's unimpeded consumption of all things NFL. It's a stadium most comfortable in the spotlight, which is where Jones has always wanted this franchise. Given what we know about how Jay Cutler's Bears have performed in both big games and those played at night, it could be a troubling formula for a Chicago team that always seems in desperate need of a win.
The Bears and Cowboys have many on-field similarities, but it's easy to see where their worldviews diverge. Dallas appears to really eat up that "America's Team" label, and I don't think I'm misremembering a quote about God smiling down on that obnoxiously oversized star positioned at midfield. The Bears, at their best, are understated: defense and special teams, power running, game manager quarterbacks. The Cowboys are more likely to give you fireworks -- good or bad -- the Bears are more likely to put you to bed. But no matter how differently these two franchises go about their business, they've ended up in a very similar spot.
As Bill Barnwell touched upon a couple weeks ago, Cutler and Tony Romo are loaded with similarities. Each quarterbacks one of the most popular teams in the sport, each has had varied degrees of success doing so. Each has also had very public gaffes, from Cutler's four interception performance in Week 2 to Romo's series of costly turnovers in big situations. The dirty secret of living the American dream and playing quarterback in the NFL is this: is you don't win the Super Bowl, it's often a thankless endeavor.
Much like Cutler, you get the sense that Romo will never satisfy his critics until he hoists the Lombardi Trophy. What's interesting, though, is how both seem to have strong support from their own fans. When I talked to SB Nation Dallas' Tom Ryle, he said of Romo: "If they give him any time, he is still one of the most dangerous quarterbacks out there, especially when he is on the move."
Sound like someone else?
And this is where the similarities between the Bears and Cowboys come out again: their main strength (pressuring the quarterback) and weakness (protecting the quarterback) is shared. Which is to say: Monday night could be a very ugly game.
We saw what Clay Matthews did to J'Marcus Webb. Does anyone really think the equally terrifying DeMarcus Ware will be any less successful? For the Bears to win, they'll have to adjust. If the plan for Cutler is five-step drops and deep routes for the receivers that require time to develop, Cutler could end this game in a wheelchair. The Cowboys are familiar with the Bears' downfall, just like the rest of the world. Get ready for those 3-4 pass rushers to pin their ears back and try to take Cutler's head off.
For the Bears to win, they'll have to fight fire with fire. That means Julius Peppers and the rest of the front four need to bring the heat, which they've done in droves thus far. When the defensive line can get pressure without the aid of a blitz and Urlacher and Lance Briggs can drop into coverage, the Bears are at their best. Success on Monday night will be dependent on two things: a) the Bears making offensive adjustments to Dallas' pass rush, and b) the Bears rattling Romo with consistent pressure.
There are some real offensive weapons involved too, but I can't fight the feeling we're in for another tooth-and-nail contest. The forecast for Monday night is decidedly physical.
Odds and Ends
- "If I could have babies, I would want Jay Cutler to be my baby father."
- What's weirder: the fact that, through three games, Tim Jennings is the Bears' MVP, or that you can't find a single person who's willing to argue this? Jennings, with four interceptions and a hand in Major Wright's game-sealing pick-six vs. the Rams, has been insanely good so far. Check the stats:
Tim Jennings is in absolutely freakish form.Rams went after him 9 times.He allowed 1 catch for 8 yards— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 24, 2012
Through 3 games throwing at Tim Jennings will get you a 4.9 QB rating. Those are Revis type numbers, that's the kind of form we're talking— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 24, 2012
How did this happen? Jennings was most noted last year for dropping easy picks. This year, he's converting them. Having stood next to and interviewed Jennings during training camp, his success is even more jarring. ESPN Chicago's Jon Greenberg said Jennings is "sports writer-sized" and that is not an exaggeration: this dude is short. How he's able to go up against the huge, physical freaks that play receiver in the NFL is nothing less than astounding.
What's also peculiar is how his success feels sustainable. He might not be getting an interception in every game, but Jennings' coverage has also been very solid, as has been his tackling. The Bears' secondary was in desperate need of some fresh blood, and Jennings, against all odds, has been the guy to fill that role.
- Take us home, Lance Briggs.
Chris collinsworth commentary is comedy to me..— lance briggs (@55Berger) September 24, 2012