After a rout of the Tennessee Titans this past Sunday, the Chicago Bears now turn their attention to a much more formidable opponent, the Houston Texans. The Houston Texans boast the same 7-1 record as the Chicago Bears, which has some people already calling this game a Super Bowl preview.
While it’s not quite the Super Bowl, this Sunday’s game will feature two of the NFL’s top teams. Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is among those who are excited for the high powered match-up.
Smith said, “We’re playing a 7-1 team, so that’s saying we’re playing a heck of a football team. We’re excited to get an opportunity to match up against them, especially at home.”
Success starts with defense for both teams. The Houston Texans give up the second fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL, while the Chicago Bears rank sixth in that same category. The strengths of both defensive units are their ability to play together, but there is no shortage of star power on either squad, as both defenses boast defensive player of the year candidates.
The Houston defense is led by J.J. Watt, who has burst onto the scene in 2012 to the tune of 10.5 sacks and 10 pass deflections through the teams first eight games. Watt’s ability to bat down passes has been well documented this year, especially by the Houston fans who have started to call him J.J. “Swatt”. While he appreciates the attention, Watt notes that deflecting passes is not something that he just started doing one day.
“It’s something I’ve been working on since college,” Watt said. “I think it’s something that comes with time and comes with a lot of practice.”
The man leading the defensive charge for the Chicago Bears so far this season has been Charles Tillman. Tillman has been a lockdown corner so far this year for Chicago. His best performance came against Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions who he limited to 3 catches for a mere 34 yards.
Tillman has also excelled at punching footballs out of ball carriers hands, a skill which he showcased last Sunday against Tennessee when he forced a career high four fumbles. Tillman’s teammates have taken notice of his extraordinary play, and Lance Briggs is already making a case for Tillman as defensive player of the year.
“We are all seeing history being made,” Briggs said. “I’ve never seen anybody who’s been able to do the things he’s able to do, and to do it so consistently. Right now I can tell you he is the defensive player of the year. Hands down right now there is no one playing better than him.”
While the defenses are clearly the strength of both these teams, their offenses are each capable of putting up big points.
The Texans like to use their zone blocking scheme in order to establish a running game with Arian Foster. This will allow them to use play action in order to try and get some big plays down the field to their playmakers Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels. The Bears defense will need to focus on shutting down the Houston run game early if they want to disrupt Houston’s game plan.
On the flip side, the Chicago Bears offense will have to do something which they have struggled to do so far this year, which is to get off to a hot start. Lovie Smith has acknowledged the fact that the Chicago offense needs to be more effective early in games.
“Starting fast has been a focus each week with all three phases,” Smith said.
While the Bears will also look to establish a run game early, the most important player for the Chicago offense Sunday night will be Brandon Marshall. Most of Marshall’s production this season has come in the second half of blowout games. Marshall will need to make plays early and often Sunday night, especially if the Texans get out to an early lead and Chicago is forced to throw the ball more often than they would like.
This game will have a playoff feel to it, and it will most likely come down to the last few possessions. The Chicago Bears will need to continue their defensive scoring barrage if they want to win this game. If the Bears get into the end zone on defense or special teams they will come out on top, otherwise it will be an uphill battle against a team as well rounded as the Houston Texans.