The key to winning the NFC North division title will be stopping the run. All four division teams have very reliable running games for the first time in years, which will put a premium on run defense this season. For the Chicago Bears, facing these opponents twice a year was the primary reason their run defense finished dead last in opponents rush yards per game in 2013.
For six of their 16 games, the Bears must find a way to slow down Minnesota Vikings‘Adrian Peterson, the Detroit Lions‘ Reggie Bush, and the Green Bay Packers‘ Eddie Lacy. In their six games against these rushers last season, the Bears were only able to hold one to under 100 yards rushing once; in their final game, the defense held Lacy to only 66 yards, while James Starks also gained 88 yards for the Packers. When you average these six games out, the Bears gave up 128.5 yards per game to their division foes, and that does not include backup rushers or quarterbacks.
These numbers need to drop significantly if this year’s Bears team wishes to win their division. When the team is that bad against the run, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford are able to utilize play action passing to wreak havoc on the Bears’ pass defense. And if the Vikings decide to draft a mobile quarterback such as Johnny Manziel, the Bears will have to contend with more than just Peterson rushing the ball when they meet.
Fortunately for Bears fans, general manager Phil Emery has made major strides in improving his defense via free agency. Now with the NFL Draft approaching in early May, the team needs to find a legitimate run stopping defensive lineman to help slow down their opponents. The division title may very well rest on their shoulders.
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