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Week 12 Defensive Preview: Stop Forte

The Bears come into Oakland minus their starting quarterback Jay Cutler. They will turn from Cutler to Caleb Hanie. It changes the game considerably from what the Raiders would have been facing with Jay Cutler under center. The Bears will not be able to turn to Cutler when the defense stacks the box against Matt Forte and the pressure will be on Hanie to make the defense pay for it.

Running

Matt Forte has more yards from scrimmage and more 20+ and 40+ yards runs than any running back in football. Forte is averaging 155.1 yards per game. Put this in perspective, Matt Forte generates over 47% of the Bears offensive yards. How does the worst run defense in football stop the best running back in football? The Raiders are allowing 5.2 yards per carry. Forte is averaging 5.0 yards per carry. It doesn't take a mathematician to do this math Forte could run all over the Raiders if they don't have a plan to stop him.

Forte is extremely elusive and defenders have missed tackles on him 38 times. Only Michael Turner has more, but Forte has also forced 11 missed tackles in the passing game. Raiders must maintain gap discipline and maintain their fundamentals when trying to bring down Forte.

The Raiders rush defense has been inconsistent and there is debate about just how much the run defense has improved from prior years. Raiders have allowed 38, 223, 100, 183, 70, 65, 139, 299, 75, 124 in games this season. If the Raiders hold the opposing team to less than 125 yards they are 6-0, but are 0-4 when allowing more than 125 yards on the ground.

Without consistency it is difficult to project how the Raiders will fare against a back of Forte's caliber, but they have demonstrated the ability to stop the run at times this season. The defense is struggling for consistency and holding opponents under 125 in three consecutive weeks would be a step in the right direction. Stopping the run is a combination between attitude, gap discipline and tackling. The Raiders can't afford to skirt by with only one of the three elements. Pressure is on the linebackers in this game. If Forte runs wild it will be a long afternoon.

Playing with a lead would limit Forte's role in the game and the Raiders offense can really help out the defense by scoring early.

Passing

Again, the Raiders must worry about Matt Forte. He has 46 receptions for 465 yards coming through the passing game. Forte can be stopped in the passing game by ensuring coverage in the middle of the field. Only 9 of 46 Forte receptions have been to the outside for a total of just 96 yards. He'll be Caleb Hanie's security blanket and the Raiders need to know where he is at all times.

Johnnie Knox presents a different challenge. He's a burner and deep threat for the Bears and averaging nearly 20 yards per reception. Play him physical at the line and make sure he doesn't get behind you. The Raiders are never speed deficient and may opt to single cover and dare Hanie to throw deep.

Devin Hester is turning into a solid receiver and the Bears may try to get the ball into his hands. The Raiders defense needs to converge on Hester and limit his running lanes for a big play. Earl Bennett and Roy Williams are more station-to-station receivers and Hanie may look to them on third downs.

Raiders should dare Hanie to throw by stacking the box and using inside leverage to force Hanie to make more difficult throws.

Special Teams

The oft ignored third phase of the game takes center stage this Sunday as the Raiders get set to host Devin Hester and the Bears. Hester is one of he best return men in the league. If Shane Lechler and the Raiders elect to kick it in Hester's direction the coverage teams will need to be ready. All signs indicate the return team is getting prepared for the worst, but don't expect Lechler to take the risk this Sunday unless necessary.

By The Numbers

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