Dale: Red zone will decide Cardinals-Bears game

Posted at 1:34 PM, Sep 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-15 16:34:30-04

Sunday's matchup between the Cardinals and Bears in Chicago will be a classic battle of strength vs. strength.

The Cards' defense fits the bend-but-don't-break mold: They'll concede yards but will rarely allow opponents to score touchdowns. The Cards hold up well when their opponents advance within their 20-yard line -- an area known as the "red zone."

The Cardinals were third in the NFL in red-zone defense last year, allowing touchdowns just 45.5 percent of the time when opponents breached their 20-yard line. They picked up where they left off Sunday, limiting the Saints to a 25 percent red-zone success rate.

But the Bears' offense was the NFL's third-best last year in concluding drives with a touchdown: They scored a TD nearly 64 percent of the time when they reached the red zone. (They did, however, struggle in that category during their Week 1 loss to the Packers, scoring a TD on just one of their three red-zone trips.)

The Bears have plenty of goal-line weapons, including running back Matt Forte and star wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. But the most problematic for the Cards may be tight end Martellus Bennett, who scored six touchdowns last season and notched five catches and a TD last Sunday against the Packers.

The Cards have been notoriously bad at defending tight ends, and they were fortunate to not have to face former Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who was traded to the Seahawks in the offseason.

Keeping close tabs on the 6-foot-6, 275-pound Bennett in the red zone Sunday will be crucial for the Cardinals. If the defense is up to the challenge, the Cards will leave the Windy City with a 2-0 record.