4 Bears questions: on stopping Odell, sacking Eli and examining the run game
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Here are four questions as the Bears prepare to face the Giants on Sunday:
How do you stop Odell Beckham?
“Going to mass on Saturday night,” Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said.
Even with the Giants’ offensive struggles, the receiver has totaled 1,017 receiving yards this season. That’s good for ninth in the NFL, and he’s only 121 yards shy of second place.
“Odell’s easily a top-five, top-three, top-two receiver in the league,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said.
Amukamara used to face Beckham in practice when they played for the Giants. On Sunday, he’ll try to jam Beckham at the line of scrimmage. On the other side of the field, Kyle Fuller likely also will use his physicality.
“He really doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses because he’s fast as heck and he can jump out the gym,” Amukamara said.
Fangio, for the record, does go to mass on Saturday nights. And, yes, he asks God to help him slow down opposing offensive players.
Just how bad has the running game been?
In November, the Bears averaged a league-worst 3.01 yards per carry and still went 4-0. The next-closest team, the Lions, averaged a half-yard more.
Exactly how bad is 3.01 yards per carry? Since the merger, only four teams have averaged less in a full season: the 1994 Patriots, 1992 Colts and 1986 Patriots.
In November, quarterback Mitch Trubisky padded the numbers by averaging 4.8 yards on 14 carries.
During run-pass options, Nagy said the Bears often call runs that turn into screen passes. He said he could call runs on four of seven plays, but the team still might throw it all seven times because of what the defense gives them.
“Well, you didn’t run the ball enough,” he said. “Well, we tried. But that’s who we agreed to be, who we like to be.”
The alternative, of course, is to call handoffs where quarterbacks don’t have to make a decision. The Bears call them “breathers” for their quarterbacks.
“You want to have that ability of having that,” Nagy said.
Halftime hot tip
The Bears, who are 4½-point favorites, have won and covered the spread in each of their last five games since a 38-31 home loss to the Patriots.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been sacked 38 times this season, second-most in the NFL. He trails Dak Prescott, who has played an extra game.
Manning has been sacked 397 times in his career. Among active quarterbacks, only Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Alex Smith and Philip Rivers have been sacked more.
“It makes us hungrier — ‘Oh, we can go get somebody who’s been sacked a lot,’ ” outside linebacker Aaron Lynch said. “But we know they’re gonna do things that are going to try to take us out of the game.”
When the Giants pass Sunday, they figure to use short dropbacks. Beckham told New York reporters that the best way to combat Khalil Mack’s pass rush was to “get open — fast.”
How did the interview go?
Giants coach Pat Shurmur was the only other candidate interviewed by the Bears last offseason to accept a head-coaching job elsewhere. The former Vikings offensive coordinator said he enjoyed the meeting in January with chairman George McCaskey, president/CEO Ted Phillips and general manager Ryan Pace.
What stood out when he examined the Bears’ opportunity?
“I thought, having played against them four times in Minnesota the years I was there and having competed against them, I’ve always been super impressed with their defense,” he said. “Very stout, very hard to score against. And so they did a really, really, good job of maintaining that when they brought in Matt [Nagy]. That seems that that’s a constant you can build on. It’s a very good model. Then Matt has done what he’s done on offense.”