The Chicago Bears knew this part of their schedule would threaten to sink their entire 2021 season. Thus far they’ve managed to tread water. They beat Las Vegas on the road but weren’t able to take down the Green Bay Packers last week. Now they stare down Tom Brady and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. A team that is 5-1 and boasting one of the hottest offenses in the NFL.
It isn’t hard to understand why most experts and indeed most Bears fans aren’t optimistic about their chances. Their offense is one of the worst in the NFL at scoring points. They have a rookie quarterback in Justin Fields who struggles against the blitz. He’ll be facing one of the most blitz-happy defensive coordinators in the league in Todd Bowles. On top of that, the Bears defense is banged up with Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols nursing injuries and Robert Quinn on the COVID list. A win is hard to envision in this one.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible though.
Especially with what is happening down in Tampa Bay right now. Chicago isn’t the only team dealing with health issues. The Buccaneers will be going into the game down several key players. Longtime linebacker Lavonte Davis is out with an ankle injury. Cornerback Richard Sherman won’t play due to a hamstring. It’s even worse on offense as both tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Antonio Brown are out as well. Pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul is also questionable.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 22, 2021
One should not underscore how significant those losses are. Gronkowski has only played three games this season but is still tied for the team lead with four touchdown catches. He’s a huge part of their 3rd down and red zone offenses. Brown though might be the biggest hit for them. The former All-Pro has truly rediscovered his form this season, going for 418 yards and four touchdowns in five games. Tampa Bay has absolutely shredded teams using him out of the slot.
With those two out of the picture, it should at least ease some of the burdens on the Chicago Bears defense. Brady is still going to find openings, but it won’t be quite as easy for him. If the pass rush can get home and the offense can find a way to score more than two touchdowns? This might be a winnable football game.