OPPONENT: Chicago Bears
WHERE: Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois
WHERE THE BEARS STAND: The Bears are 1-1 and tied for second place in the NFC North division.
BEARS HEAD COACH: Lovie Smith
BEARS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Ron Turner
BEARS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Bob Babich
BEARS SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Dave Toub
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS OFFENSE
OVERALL: 12th (332 ypg)
RUSHING: 7th (155 ypg)
PASSING: 16th (177 ypg)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS DEFENSE
OVERALL: 23rd (336 ypg)
RUSHING: 15th (103 ypg)
PASSING: 23rd (233 ypg)
CHICAGO BEARS OFFENSE
OVERALL: 24th (288 ypg)
RUSHING: 9th (149 ypg)
PASSING: 27th (139 ypg)
CHICAGO BEARS DEFENSE
OVERALL: 6th (255 ypg)
RUSHING: 8th (84 ypg)
PASSING: 11th (171 ypg)
DID YOU KNOW …
… Bears wide receiver Devin Hester scored 12 touchdowns as a return specialist in his first two regular seasons with Chicago?
SCOUTING THE BEARS
Chicago QB Kyle Orton is not considered a dangerous weapon by most opposing defenses. The Bears have asked Orton to do the same thing they asked of former first-round pick Rex Grossman for years, which is manage the game and avoid turnovers. Orton, who normally does not possess a strong or accurate arm, has been successful in that regard thus far, completing 32-of-53 (60.4 percent) of his passes for 299 yards and tossed no touchdowns or interceptions.
The Bears' ground game is the strength of their offense. It is led by rookie RB Matt Forte, who has carried the ball 46 times for 215 yards (4.7 avg.) and caught six passes for 39 yards. His first and only career touchdown came on a 50-yard touchdown run vs. Indianapolis in Week 1. Forte was a productive back at Tulane and possesses a nice combination of size and speed. Chicago will also use former Detroit RB Kevin Jones as a situational-type player. He has carried the ball 14 times for 45 yards (3.2 avg.). Blocking for both players is fullback Jason McKie, who is considered a good lead blocker. He is also the team's short-yardage runner in goal line situations, evidenced by the fact that McKie has carried the ball five times for 12 yards (2.4 avg.) and scored two touchdowns this season.
Orton's primary target in the passing game is WR Rashied Davis, but he has caught just five passes for 21 yards (4.2 avg.). Davis will be matched up with Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber throughout most of the game. He will also face rookie CB Aqib Talib in nickel situations, which calls for Barber to move to the slot and Talib to fill in at right cornerback. Talib, who notched his first career interception last week vs. Atlanta, is nursing a hamstring injury heading into Sunday's contest.
Bears WR Brandon Lloyd leads the offense in receptions with seven for 92 yards (13.1 avg.). His longest grab of the year went for 32 yards. He will face Bucs CB Phillip Buchanon, who has one interception and one touchdown so far this season.
Because their passing game lacks playmakers and playmaking ability, Orton often times looks for his tight ends in the passing game. Desmond Clark is a balanced tight end and has caught four passes for 67 yards. Second-year TE Greg Olsen has also hauled in four passes for 43 yards. Bucs linebackers Cato June and Barrett Ruud, and strong safety Jermaine Phillips will be called on to help contain the tight ends in the passing game.
Chicago's offensive line has some issues in pass protection even though it has only allowed three sacks. This unit's strength is run blocking. The Bears are known to run the ball behind right tackle John Tait and right guard Roberto Garza. These players will go up against left end Greg White and under tackle Jovan Haye, respectively. Orton won't drop back to throw often, but when he does he will have to beware of White, who notched 1.5 sacks last week. The Bucs will also use veteran DE Kevin Carter to help stop the run from the left side.
Bears left tackle John St. Claire is responsible for protecting the blind side of Orton. He will be matched up with Bucs right end Gaines Adams, who registered two sacks and four quarterback hurries vs. the Falcons last week. Adams will have to find a way to get after Orton when he drops back to throw, but his first priority must be holding up against the run.
Chicago left guard Josh Beekman and center Olin Kreutz have struggled in pass protection this season. They will face Bucs nose tackle Chris Hovan and Haye. This will be a matchup to watch as Tampa Bay's interior defensive line hasn't exactly been strong in terms of pressuring the quarterback this season.
Tampa Bay limited Atlanta's potent ground attack to just 3.8 yards per carry last Sunday. It will have to build off of that success in order to limit Chicago's offense on Sunday. Chicago is converting 51.6 percent of hits third down tries on offense, and its ground game is the main reason for that success. Forte and Co. have been putting the offense in favorable third-and-short situations.
The strength of Tampa Bay's offense is its running game, but establishing the ground attack vs. Chicago's defense could prove to be difficult. The Bears are allowing just 83.5 rushing yards per game through two games this season.
Even though Bucs RB Earnest Graham is averaging 8.3 yards per carry, don't be surprised if head coach Jon Gruden calls passing plays in an effort to establish the running game on Sunday.
Should that scenario unfold, Tampa Bay's offensive line will have to be on top of its game vs. Chicago's defensive line, which features defensive ends Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown, and defensive tackles Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek.
Brown will attack Bucs quarterback Brian Griese's blind side against left tackle Donald Penn, who has had mixed results in pass protection so far this season. Brown leads Chicago's defense in sacks with two.
Tampa Bay left guard Arron Sears and center Jeff Faine would ideally prefer to double team Dvoracek, but that could be dangerous as it would leave rookie guard Jeremy Zuttah in one-on-one situations with Harris, who has 19.5 career sacks.
Ogunleye is a player the Bucs must account for in passing situations. He has notched 55.5 career sacks and will go up against Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood. Look for the Bucs to use former Bears tight end John Gilmore and running back Warrick Dunn to help block and provide time for Griese, who is also a former Bears player, to pass the ball.
Gruden's offense often times calls for players to run routes in the short to intermediate parts of the football field. That could play into the hands of Chicago's version of the Cover 2 defense, which has a solid group of linebackers in Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Hunter Hillenmeyer.
Chicago's linebacking corps are one of the main reasons why the Bears have been so strong against the run and allowed opposing offenses to convert just 29.2 percent of their third down attempts.
Griese will have to beware of this group, especially Briggs, a three-time Pro Bowler, when he attempts to dump the ball off to Graham, Dunn, fullback B.J. Askew or any of the team's tight ends. Urlacher is at his best against the run and as a blitzer, and Hillenmeyer is considered an assignment-sound player.
Chicago's defense appears to have a huge advantage in the passing game, especially with Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway nursing an ankle injury and considered questionable for Sunday's game vs. the Bears.
Galloway, 36, has not been effective as a receiver, which has been a major problem for the Bucs offense, which has struggled to stretch the field without him. Even if Galloway plays, he will be matched up with Bears CB Nathan Vasher, who is Chicago's version of Ronde Barber in its Cover 2 scheme. Tillman is a physical, playmaking cornerback, evidenced by his 17 career interceptions.
Tampa Bay WR Antonio Bryant likely will be matched up with Chicago CB Charles Tillman, who like Vasher, is a physical player and has 18 career interceptions.
Bucs WR Ike Hilliard likely will see the field on obvious passing situations. He is a popular third down target and likely would face Bears nickel CB Trumane McBride.
If Chicago's front seven can contain Tampa Bay's ground attack, Griese will be even more hard pressed to move the ball through the air since the Bears will be able to keep safeties Mike Brown and Kevin Payne in coverage.
One of the Bears most dangerous weapons is return specialist Devin Hester, who is a touchdown and playmaking machine. Tampa Bay's coverage units have been solid under special teams coordinator Richard Bisaccia, and this group might catch a break as the speedy and elusive Hester suffered a rib injury last Sunday and may not play in this game. Should Hester not be able to play, Chicago likely would use cornerback Nathan Vasher and running back Garrett Wolfe in his place.
Bears kicker Robbie Gould has made 3-of-3 field goals this season, which should come as no surprise since he's made 85.1 percent of his career kicks.
Punter Brad Maynard is averaging just 38.3 yards per punt, but he's pinned four of his 12 attempts inside the 20-yard line. Bucs rookie wide receiver Dexter Jackson will be fielding kickoffs and punts from Gould and Maynard, respectively. The speedy return specialist needs to do a better job of staying on his feet and hitting holes, especially in this game, where starting field position will be key for both teams.
FLYNN'S FORECAST: Bears 13 Buccaneers 10