Dave Melton’s Game Preview: Bears vs. Cardinals

Through 120 minutes of preseason football, the Chicago Bears haven’t given too many reasons to believe the 2010 season is going to be different from the previous three. Some of the old familiar problems appear to be cropping up already: inconsistent offensive line play, lack of a pass rush and trouble stopping the run, just to name a few.

Yes, preseason games ultimately don’t mean a thing, but it is certainly reassuring to see your team fare well during August. But it’ll take a solid performance to do that, with the Arizona Cardinals coming to town. Derek Anderson will be at the head of the powerful Arizona offense, although he will not be throwing to receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet, who are out with injury. Still, expect the Cardinals to come out slinging the ball over the field. The Arizona defense will provide a challenge, too, with players like Adrian Wilson, Joey Porter and Darnell Dockett on the field.

So what do the Bears need to do?

Keep running the ball: The play of the preseason so far was Matt Forte’s 89-yard run against Oakland last week. It may be too much to ask for that kind of run again, but the offensive line should continue to generate holes for their ground game. More important than breaking off any huge runs is maintaining an average of four to five yards every time Chicago hands the ball to a back.

Cutler’s accuracy: Remember when Jay Cutler led the NFL in interceptions last season? It seems like one storyline a lot of people have forgotten about this preseason, given all the other issues that have developed. Cutler hasn’t been incredibly accurate, but he’s made a lot of nice passes when he’s needed to. The most important thing? Zero interceptions. That may be the best number of the entire preseason.

Consistency, please? The starting offensive line couldn’t run block in the first game, then they couldn’t pass block in the second game. It’d be great to see them put it all together for one contest. The biggest microscope will be on LT Chris Williams, who was torched repeatedly against Oakland.

Prepare for the aerial assault: Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson … whoever is behind center, expect them to be able to fire the ball anywhere. The Cardinals have a great system in place, and with Derek Anderson at the helm on Saturday, don’t be surprised to see him return to his 2007 form, if the Bears allow him. Facing this offense will be a great test for some of their divisional opponents, who all have the ability to move the ball through the air.

Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush: It’s a dead horse, but it still needs to be beaten. If the Bears are going to sit back in their Cover 2, the front four need to get pressure on the quarterback. It’s vital against teams like Arizona. Julius Peppers got a sack last week, and pressure by Matt Toeaina led to an interception for Charles Tillman. More of that will be needed on Saturday, or the Bears will end up looking like the Colts defense against the Packers on Thursday night.

Step up to the challenge: This will be the best test for Chicago before the regular season. Facing a quality Arizona team in a contest where the starters will play at least a half and possibly into the third quarter. Anything that can make Bears fans forget about last year’s game against the Cardinals would go a long way toward restoring faith in 2010.

And please, no more injuries.

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