The Bears spent much of the past week trying to decipher the wide variety of blitzes they could see Monday night when they face the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
"It's preparation and research," said coach Marc Trestman. "We spent a lot of time researching all the different fronts they've played this season and last season. It's No. 1 on the hit list of things we've got to be prepared for, and this is to keep Jay [Cutler] as clean as we can.
It's not much of a surprise that Jets coach Rex Ryan likes to blitz. After all, he grew up watching his father, Buddy, coordinate Bears defenses that sent everyone but the peanut vendors to pulverize quarterbacks. But the challenge is figuring out when the extra rushers are coming and from where.
"The thing that the Jets do is they'll show it and then they'll drop people out," Trestman said. "They'll show it and bring it. They'll show it and play different kind of coverages behind it. They're very, very good at mixing it up and not tipping what they're going to do prior to the snap."
"Anytime you play a Rex Ryan defense it's going to be a challenge because first off you need to identify who you're going to block and that's just half the battle because you need to block them," said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.
"They overload blitz, they show blitz on one side and actually blitz the other side, so we have our work cut out. We've done a good job of studying all week and formulating a plan and luckily we have smart players. That's an advantage to you as a coach that your players understand exactly why things are happening, not just because coach told me to.
"That's where we are as a team, and hopefully it shows up. It's one thing to do it in practice; it's another thing to do it in a game. But we've worked very hard on all the exotic things that Rex likes to bring and hopefully we can take advantage."
According to Trestman, the Jets rushed seven players on 25 plays in their first two games. It doesn't take a math professor to figure out that that leaves just four defenders in coverage.
"This defense has brought more zero blitzes in the first two games than we saw all last year—zero blitzing meaning it's one-on-one coverage behind the blitz that they're bringing," Kromer said. "Every receiver has just one guy. There's no help with a deep safety. So it's a one-on-one battle. But you have to get it off fast enough before the quarterback gets hit because they blitz one more than you can protect."
Trestman knows that all-out blitzes leave the defense vulnerable to allowing big plays, especially with an offense that features a pair of Pro Bowl receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
"There's always going to be big-play ability when you leave the middle of the field open," Trestman said. "When people bring those kinds of blitzes they know that. But you still have to pick them up. Anytime they're going to bring one more than you can block … you've got to find a way to make sure you can get the quarterback to get the ball out of his hand and still get something positive out of it.
"It's really a fun challenge. It's an exciting challenge for the entire offensive group because everybody's involved in picking things up, whether it's route-running, change of plays, change of protections, line calls and communication. We've got to do it in the noise as well."