Coming off of a 26-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Bears will head to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are 5-2 this season and have a very dangerous offense but a mediocre defense. Here are the Bears three keys for Week 9.
Win the conversion battle
To beat the Titans, the Bears must outplay the Titans on 3rd downs, 4th downs and trips to the red zone.
For Chicago, the offense’s and defense’s abilities to convert in conversion situations have been polar opposites. They have the 31st 3rd down percentage at 34.9%, the 22nd 4th down percentage at 50%, and the 30th percentage of red zone trips ending in touchdowns at 47.8%. Meanwhile, their defense has the best 3rd down percentage and best red zone percentage in the NFL.
For the Titans, it is the exact opposite. Their offense has the 7th best 3rd down percentage, 7th best 4th down percentage and second best red zone percentage. On defense, they have the worst 3rd down percentage, the 23rd 4th down percentage and the 30th red zone percentage among all defenses.
This adds an interesting factor to the game. Tennessee’s and Chicago’s strengths in these crucial situations are the exact opposite. Whoever does a better job of converting will be much more likely to win. Therefore, the Bears need to exceed the Titans in this aspect of the game.
Slow down Derrick Henry
The Titans offense relies on star running back Derrick Henry. His ability to run over defenders and create gaps in the defense is unparalleled in the NFL.
The sheer volume of carries that Henry receives on a week to week basis is amazing. He averages 23 carries per game, leading the NFL. He also leads in the league in total yards and has the second most touchdowns in the league.
The Bears front seven must be ready for a tough, physical matchup against the Titans offense. Chicago’s defense has tackled fairly well this season, missing tackles only 8.0% of the time. It will be harder to tackle Derrick Henry, a player who has broken 16 tackles and averages 2.8 yards after contact, but if they can stop him, this Titans offense will be much less dangerous.
Derrick Henry does have one limitation – being a receiving back. This season, he only has 10 catches on 18 targets. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has a poor 67.1 passer rating when throwing to Henry.
If the Bears can get off to an early lead and slow down Derrick Henry, Tennessee will be forced to throw the football more often. In doing so, the star running back will be much less involved, giving the Bears defense an edge.
Allow field goals, not touchdowns
Potentially the Titans’ greatest weakness is their kicker, Stephen Gostkowski.
The veteran kicker has struggled this season, hitting only 10 of his 17 field goal attempts. He has particularly struggled from medium range, hitting only 4/9 fields goals from 30-50 yards out.
Recently, Gostkowski has been playing especially poorly. In his past three games, he has hit one out of five field goals. He is clearly struggling, and the Bears need to take advantage of that.
So far this season, the Bears have done a great job of limiting touchdowns. They have allowed the least passing touchdowns and the 10th least rushing touchdowns. This is not to mention their defensive success in the red zone in forcing teams into field goals.
If Chicago continues to allow fields goals over touchdowns on defense, Gostkowski will see much more time on the field and can be expected to struggle. Exposing Gostkowski and the Titans issues at the kicking position would be another way for the Bears defense to limit scoring.
The Tennessee Titans are one of the best teams in the AFC and are especially dangerous on offense. It will be tough to slow them down, but if Chicago’s defense can keep the ball out of Derrick Henry’s hands and continue to force field goals and punts, they should do just enough to have a bounce back game and come out on top.
Bears 23 – Titans 20
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