The LA Rams and Chicago Bears aren't exactly rivals, but it’s been starting to look that way as Sunday Night Football will be their fourth meeting in four years. Following a rare loss in the 2018 season, Sean McVay has bested Bears head coach Matt Nagy in each of the last two meetings.
What does McVay need to do to make it three in a row?
There has been amount of turnover for Chicago since this past year when they faced off, specifically a quarterback change going from Nick Foles as the starter vs LA last year (recap of how the game went in 2020) to Andy Dalton this year, in favor of rookie Justin Fields.
If it is in fact Dalton, the Rams still need to take him seriously because the veteran QB has considerably more starting experience than most current quarterbacks and he wasn’t that bad for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020.
Besides taking Dalton seriously, lets review some other keys the team can do to secure a win in front of the home fans.
#1 - Contain wide receiver Allen Robinson
Thankfully the LA defense has an elite cornerback in Jalen Ramsey to help prevent one of the best wide receivers in the game from getting going. In their 2019 matchup, Robinson was held to just four receptions for 15 yards. It wasn't a similar story in their 2020 matchup, Robinson had the same four receptions but for 70 yards. However, Ramsey only allowed one of those receptions to him and it went for 42 yards.
Allen Robinson has not dropped a pass beyond 20+ yards downfield since 2016 pic.twitter.com/40oG0cMLTh— PFF (@PFF) September 8, 2021
But just how much will Ramsey travel with Robinson? It has been said from defensive coordinator Raheem Morris that he would be moving around a ton this year, playing in the slot, and many more positions.
Jalen Ramsey on his role in Raheem Morris’ defense this season:— Rams Brothers (@RamsBrothers) August 22, 2021
“This is the first year that I’m going to show the world who I truly am”
The other outside corners such as Darious Williams, David Long, Jr., and possibly even Robert Rochell are going to have to step up in a big way if Ramsey is on another assignment. This is Dalton’s first year in this offense but I have a feeling he will try to force feed Robinson as much as he can, so containing him is an important factor in this game.
But even if Ramsey does contain Robinson (or someone does), then the work just goes to second-year receiver Darnell Mooney, a potential breakout star for Chicago this season. The 5’10, 176 lb Mooney is not an imposing physical receiver, but he was a staple in Nagy’s offense as a rookie and caught a career-high 11 passes for 93 yards in the final game of 2020.
#2 - Put pressure on Andy Dalton
Per PFF, the Chicago Bears have the 28th ranked offensive line in their latest rankings and they certainly struggled against the LA Rams in 2020. Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, and the rest of the defensive line were getting after it against Foles as he was constantly under pressure and that was crucial in securing a victory.
Dalton is another QB who doesn't fair to well under pressure.
Matt Nagy has said that he doesn't want to expose Fields to NFL defenses behind a questionable offensive line.— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) September 1, 2021
Passer rating/YPA under pressure this season...
Dalton: 50.3/3.0 https://t.co/Ivtrs4fXLm
The Bears tried to solidify this area for their team during the 2021 draft by selecting rookie offensive lineman Tevin Jenkins in the first round, but unfortunately for them he had to undergo back surgery that will keep him out most of the year. Chicago also brought in 39-year-old veteran Jason Peters, who may not be as reliable as he was during his prime with the Eagles, but who are the Rams to judge in this case?
This is an offensive line that players like Donald should dominate, but as we saw against the New York Jets last season, it’s never smart to assume what any team should do. It only matters what you actually do, and eating through former undrafted free agent center Sam Mustipher and a patchwork offensive line is something that Donald, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Greg Gaines, and newcomers Michael Hoecht and Jonah Williams know they are capable of doing.
#3 - Attack the Bears cornerbacks
Chicago was forced to entertain trade offers for high-priced veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller in the offseason, and when that didn’t work, they released him. While the Bears are over-the-moon for second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson, 2020’s fifth round pick, Kindle Vildor, seems more of a starter by default.
The Bears' cornerbacks on the initial 53-man roster: Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Vildor, Duke Shelley, Xavier Crawford.— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) August 31, 2021
Ryan Pace and his brass will certainly be working the waiver wires for depth at cornerback.
Chicago’s cornerbacks room has Johnson, Vildor, former Steelers cornerback Artie Burns, as well as Duke Shelley and Xavier Crawford, and that might inspire the least amount of confidence at the position as any team in the league. That doesn’t mean that the Bears cornerbacks will struggle though — it just means they’re inexperienced and unknown. That’s a problem that the Rams avoided by trading two first round picks for Ramsey, but Chicago has to hope for the best from their recent acquisitions.
If it doesn’t work in their favor, I am actually looking for Van Jefferson to find some big opportunities on Sunday night (he’s certainly a breakout candidate), but certainly Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have a chance to make a significant impact with these matchups.