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The Bears have had a tough week. In the span of six days the team traded away Robert Quinn, got blown out by the Cowboys 49-29, then traded away Roquan Smith. It would be tough to rebound from a series of events under any circumstances, but it will be even harder for the Bears since they’ll try to get back on track against the Dolphins and their league-leading passing attack. Some things will look familiar from the 49ers game, like the rushing scheme, since head coach Mike McDaniel was their rushing game coordinator from 2017-2020, and their offensive coordinator last year. But a lot will look different too, mainly because the Dolphins have two of the most explosive wide receivers in the league, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. If the Bears can execute on these three keys they’ll give themselves a chance to stay competitive until the end.


Defensive coordinator Alan Williams compared finding Hill and Waddle to playing Where’s Waldo. McDaniel moves his two biggest playmakers all over the field and uses pre-snap motions to further confuse opponents. That can lead to missed assignments in the secondary, or defenders being forced to change their techniques on the fly. It’s worked to great success for the Dolphins. Hill leads the NFL in catches (69), yards (961) and 20+ yard receptions (15). Waddle is right there, too, and ranks third in 20+ yard receptions (12), fourth in yards (727) and tied for fifth in touchdown catches (5). If the Bears lose either of them on any play, it could end up as a Dolphins score.


The best way the Bears can help their secondary against Hill and Waddle is to get to Tagovailoa in a hurry. When Tagovailoa has had time to throw, he’s completed 72.8% of his passes, per PFF. When pressured, that number plummets to 57.1%. Further, Tagovailoa has only thrown one touchdown when under pressure, compared to 11 when he’s kept clean. We’ve seen the third-year quarterback make poor decisions to throw jump balls if his clock speeds up, and if the Bears can do that they’ll give their playmakers like Eddie Jackson more opportunities to come down with the football.


Ever since the Bears came out of their mini bye, their offense has been much improved. The biggest growth has come from the quarterback position, both in how Luke Getsy has tweaked the scheme, and in how Justin Fields has executed. Last week, Fields and the Bears were primed to take the next step in their explosive play production, but for a variety of reasons Fields and his wide receivers couldn’t connect. On one instance, Fields placed a perfect ball to Velus Jones Jr. running down the sideline. Jones Jr. had the ball bounce off his hands. On another, Fields led Dante Pettis well into the endzone, but Pettis was looking over his wrong shoulder for the ball, which slowed him down and allowed his defender to regain position to make a play on the ball. One play after the Pettis incompletion, Fields tossed a 50/50 ball up to Equanimeous St. Brown on a free play that could’ve been a touchdown. But St. Brown wasn’t able to use his size to high point the ball for the score. The Bears will need to hit explosive plays to keep up with the Dolphins’ high-octane offense, and the best way to do that will be to clean up their execution on these deep shot attempts.


The Dolphins offense seems like too much for the Bears to contain, especially as they sort out how to move forward without Smith. Their own offense should still be able to put up points, but it will be hard for them to keep pace with Tagovailoa, Hill and Waddle.

Dolphins: 31, Bears: 27

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