The Miami Dolphins are a few hours away from kicking off in their Week 6 game against the Chicago Bears. The Dolphins only face the Bears once every four years as the NFL rotates game between divisions in the opposing conference. With the AFC East facing the NFC North this year, the Dolphins get to welcome the Bears back to Miami, where the South Florida team is 4-3 all time against the Monsters of the Midway - including the 1985 38-24 defeat of the Bears, preventing an undefeated season.
It has been four years since Miami last played the Bears, with the Dolphins winning 27-14 in Chicago. The last time this matchup was in Miami, Chicago beat the Dolphins 16-0. What will happen in this year’s contest? To get a better idea of who the Bears are and what Miami should expect, earlier this week I had a chance to talk to Jeff Berckes from Windy City Gridiron. You can check out my responses to his Dolphins questions as well - including the random conversation that sprung up from one of my answers.
On to the questions:
1. Obviously, the story of the Chicago Bears so far this year has been the defense and the addition of Khalil Mack. He has been a menace already this season, but he is not the only strength of the Bears defense. What should Miami expect this weekend and where can they attack and find success?
It’s been so much fun and talk about a perfect fit. The Bears have such a storied history of linebackers that the fan base truly appreciates a guy of his abilities. His jersey shot up the leader board to the top 5 best selling jerseys in the preseason... and he didn’t get traded until after the preseason games were over! They simply couldn’t make them fast enough for this linebacker loving franchise to add a #52 jersey to their rotation. He has taken this defense from a good unit to being the talk of the NFL through September. Because of the attention he demands, he’s been able to unlock other really good players with one on one match ups. That has helped players like Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman along the line, and has improved the secondary by shortening the amount of time in coverage and forcing errant throws for the taking.
The best stat that sums up the fast start this defense has had is they led the league in sacks with the lowest blitz percentage in the league. They want to attack offenses by playing advantageous coverages and beating your linemen with a four man rush. They have speed at the inside linebacker position to take away the underneath routes, and emerging playmakers in the secondary to take advantage of mistakes. If that wasn’t enough - they lead the league against the run. So how can the Dolphins find success? Force the Bears offense into a lot of short possessions and try and maintain control of the ball for as long as possible to keep that defense on the field and tire them out. Once the pass rush slows down, take your chances down the field on slow developing routes and shot plays.
2. Chicago is 24th in the league in yards per game, gaining 341.0, but are ninth in the league in rushing yards per game at 121.5 and seventh in the league in points per game at 27.8. Is the rushing attack all Jordan Howard? Is it the offensive line? And, are the Bears just not relying on Mitchell Trubisky, or is the passing offense struggling? Should we expect to see more from Trubisky after the Week 4 destruction of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
That’s a lot of questions! The short answer on some of this is that we need more data to figure out what this offense is going to be. Trubisky is still very young and inexperienced. He’s learning a new offense from a first year Head Coach who is still trying to figure a lot of things out himself. The receiving corps is completely new via Free Agency (Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton) and the draft (Anthony Miller). These things take time.
As for the running game, there were some rumors swirling about an offseason trade of Jordan Howard and those have resurfaced recently. Tarik Cohen had a big game against the Bucs, but I’m not sure how sustainable that is versus what a stout back like Howard can bring. The offensive line is good, but seemingly unsettled as rookie James Daniels is fighting for a starting spot at LG and eventually he should be the starting Center. It’s a tantalizing one-two punch if they can get both going consistently.
I think the Bucs were a perfect storm of terrible for Trubisky to take advantage of. Tons of injuries in the secondary and incredibly bland and predictable zone coverage. Trubisky made some great throws and also had some throws that were schemed open with great play calls. I have a much higher opinion of the Dolphins secondary so I’d expect a more balanced attack.
3. Who on the Bears do Dolphins fans not know but will after the game?
The Eddie’s! Eddie Jackson is a play making Free Safety in his second year who is off to a fast start. He has seemingly put it all together early this year and is starting to make a lot of plays. Eddie Goldman plays the nose and just earned a contract extension before the season started. He’s amazing against the run, which is nice, but he’s able to really push the pocket too. He’s such an underrated piece of the front 7 to the casual fan but very much appreciated by the staff at Windy City Gridiron.
4. There is talk among Dolphins fans that Adam Gase needs to stop calling plays and turn that duty over to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. I was speaking to another Bears fan earlier this week, and he almost became hysterical with laughter at that idea and said in no uncertain terms that Loggains calling plays would be a horrible idea. Given the Bears’ two-year stint with Loggains as the offensive coordinator after Gase left Chicago, what are your thoughts of him as a play caller?
So, here’s what’s funny. As I read the first sentence, I started to laugh out loud when I got to Dowell Loggains. The Bears have had some terrible play callers and while Loggains probably isn’t the worst, he’s on the short list. Seriously, he’s someone I wouldn’t wish on a friendly franchise like the Dolphins (the Packers, sure, he’d be great for them...). You hired Gase for a reason - either he’s the answer or you start over next off season. It ‘aint Dowell. Side note: Loggains looks like Patton Oswalt. Like if for some reason they make a movie of the 2018 Dolphins, Oswalt is the first person cast.
5. The Bears are sitting alone atop the NFC North, with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings each 2-2-1, while Chicago is 3-1. Are fan expectations now that the Bears are winning the division this year?
I think “expectation” is a strong word. I think Bears fans now believe that the division is a possibility, but certainly not an expectation. The Vikings have a good team even if they’re out to a slow start and the Packers have Aaron Rodgers and his fire-breathing dragon abilities. Until they’re slain, nothing is an expectation. I’d say the aim is a little higher than it was in August though, where most of the talk was to avoid another losing season and maybe stay relevant until late in the year. Not for nothing, but Vegas had the Bears at 6.5 wins in August.