The Chicago Bears’ 2023 season got off to the worst possible start with a loss to the Packers in Week 1, but that’s over now. We’re on to Week 2, when the Bears will travel to Tampa Bay to take on the 1-0 Buccaneers.
The Bucs kicked the season off with a narrow 20-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Though they recently hoisted a Lombardi trophy, that team is long gone. Tom Brady is retired, and starting in his place is veteran journeyman Baker Mayfield. Their stout defense has holes to take advantage of, and what was once a rock-solid offensive line is now near the bottom of the league. Yet they still have an excellent receiving corps and an experienced coaching staff.
Week 2 is a tough game for the Bears, but still a winnable one.
Let’s consider what they must do to leave Tampa with a win and, hopefully, some momentum.
Air it out
There’s a lot of blame to go around for the Bears’ horrendous offensive game plan in Week 1, which featured almost no downfield shots. Whoever is most to blame doesn’t matter; what matters is that they change that. Now.
The Bucs’ secondary is far from elite, and they surrendered over 350 passing yards to Mayfield behind a slipshod offensive line.
If the Bears want to compete on Sunday, Luke Getsy needs to dial up some vertical passing plays, and Justin Fields needs to let it rip. If the offensive line can’t hold up to the pass rush (more on that later), get Fields on the move. It shouldn’t look so hard for one of the best deep-ball passers in the game to get a downfield shot.
Stop Vita Vea
The Packers’ defensive line was a tough draw to open up the season, especially against an offensive line that hasn’t practiced as a unit much. Their job won’t get much easier in Week 2. While the tackles should have a simpler day, the guys on the interior are facing one of the NFC’s meanest nose tackles.
Vita Vea can absolutely wreck a game plan, and Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, and Nate Davis can’t let that happen.
Justin Fields won’t take many of the deep shots he needs to take if the defense is in his lap 1.5 seconds after the snap.
Vea will probably get his, no matter what the Bears do. The goal should be not to take him out of the game entirely, just to limit the damage he does, especially on critical third downs.
Get the defense off the field
In Week 1, the Bears defense allowed the Packers to convert on nine of their first 14 third downs. You’re not going to win many games giving up a 65% success rate on third down, and they won’t win in Week 2 if that happens again.
They have to be better in critical situations like that, which comes down to the entire unit. The line needs to get pressure, the linebackers need not get lost, and the secondary has to stick to their coverages. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams needs to be able to make better in-game adjustments, too.
Get to the quarterback
In last week’s ‘Keys to Victory’ piece, I said that if the Bears’ pass rush did not rattle Jordan Love, he would pick them apart in comfort, and that’s exactly what happened.
Baker Mayfield is like Jordan Love, an unspectacular yet reliable quarterback if given time to throw. The defensive line must step up. I’ll repeat it: throw Mayfield off his gameplan early and often, hit him and sack him, and the Bears can potentially run away with this win.