For Sunday release
Bears-Broncos preview, with Keys to the Game and game picks for this weekend's action.
Twelve years. One coach. One system. Six different 1,000-yard rushers. Eleven of 12 seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher.
You know what the Denver Broncos are going to do offensively concerning the ground game. They're going to zone block the daylights out you, and have the running back of the moment cut back for a big gain.
It will be the 4-6 Chicago Bears' turn today to try and disrupt one of the NFL's surest things.
Want numbers? Denver (5-5) is the NFL’s top rushing team for the past 12 years, averaging 141 yards a game.
Something's working right.
"Unbelievable, impressive," admires Bears center Olin Kreutz. "They're one of the very few things you can actually call a system run game in this league."
Kreutz mentions that the Broncos are missing a couple starters on the line and bring in free-agent running backs -- "and their running game still works."
"So it's hard to say it's not a system run game. It is, and it's really impressive to watch."
His guess on why more teams don't employ the system is "not everybody knows how to coach it, probably."
He refutes the notion that personnel has something to with it.
"Obviously not, no matter who they put on the field, it works," he said.
These days it's Travis Henry (580 yards) and Selvin Young (331). It used to be Tatum Bell, Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns, Clinton Portis, Orlando Gary and Terrell Davis.
Even Bears ball carrier Cedric Benson is a fan of coach Mike Shanahan's run game.
"I don't know how every running back feels, but I respect Denver's Shanahan's schemes," he said. "He's always successful. He can get any running back in there and look successful. He's got a great scheme.
"Not everybody can do it. You've still got to have the right players, the right kind of linemen."
Kreutz and Benson might differ on that point. They are together in believing they need to out rush the Broncos.
If there's a secret to being able to plug different backs into the backfield and, presto, get instant results, Shanahan's not saying.
"We believe in the system, and the system has been good for us," he said. "We’ve had guys who are very talented. When people have gone down, they’ve stepped up and played at a very high level.
"A lot of guys play together to get that running game going -- just not the offensive line, but obviously the running backs, tight ends, wide receivers blocking down field. It’s got to be a group effort to run in the National Football League."
Broncos safety John Lynch, the longtime Tampa Bay standout, is glad he doesn't have to defend against it any more.
"I think it (the system) is a big part but I think also, much like our defense in Tampa, when you've stuck with system so long not only do you become very proficient at it, you also know the type of player who is going to succeed in it," he said. "There's a clear profile all right who's going to succeed. And they're very good at picking the guys, sometimes free agents, undrafted free agents. It's a beautiful thing to watch."
Chicago offensive coordinator Ron Turner said he's watched it from his time in college at Illinois to "look at what they do."
"They do great job. Bottom line is, they have a system they believe in and they get their guys to believe in it and they execute it very, very well.
"It doesn't appear to be complicated looking at it. I'm sure it is. I'm sure they have a lot of different plays. Bottom line is, they execute it."
Reed Schreck is the NFL writer for the Rockford Register Star. Contact him at 815-987-1381 or email@example.com.
KEYS TO GAME
1. Remember Cedric Benson. He had 63 yards on his first two carries last game, then was virtually ignored. Don’t make same mistake against league's 30th-ranked rush defense.
2. Neutralize TE Tony Scheffler. He doesn't get the publicity like the stars at his position, but he leads Broncos with six touchdown catches.
3. Emphasize own tight ends. With Denver's shutdown corners Champ Bailey and Dre Bly, the Bears will have to rely on tight ends, running backs and slot receivers to control ball and move chains.
Rockford Register Star NFL writer Reed Schreck selects this week's games:
Denver 27, Chicago 24
Tennessee 26, Cincinnati 23
Jacksonville 20, Buffalo 16
Kansas City 13, Oakland 10
Cleveland 20, Houston 17
Seattle 33, St. Louis 30
NY Giants 27, Minnesota 20
New Orleans 24, Carolina 21
Washington 17, Tampa Bay 14
Arizona 24, San Francisco 10
San Diego 21, Baltimore 14
New England 34, Philadelphia 17
Pittsburgh 24, Miami 13
Last week: 13-3, .813.
Season: 109-51, .681.