Dec 24, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson (7) carries the ball against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
LAKE FOREST — Bijan Robinson is a problem.
The No. 8 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft is as good as advertised. Fast, strong, elusive and one of the many weapons the Bears must focus on for their Week 17 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.
Robinson is 10th in the league in rushing yards with 873 on 188 attempts. He also has 48 receptions for 373 yards and has seven total touchdowns (four rushing and three receiving).
“He’s just amazing,” Bears defensive lineman Zacch Pickens said this week at Halas Hall. “Like the things he do, what he can do and when he’s healthy, he’s like the best player on the field and it shows. That’s the reason why he went No. 1. He’s really talented. Like watching him even in college with Roschon (Johnson), they both was like the two-headed monsters. So having that and seeing it and now about to play against it is wicked.”
When Robinson gets the football, he is also difficult to bring down. In the Falcons’ 29-10 victory over the Colts last week, Robinson had eight missed tackles forced, according to Pro Football Focus. This season, the rookie has 50 missed tackles forced, which is tied for the fourth most among running backs.
This entire Bears defense and the coaching staff are well aware of the challenge that awaits them on Sunday at Soldier Field, but there is a strategy in place for Robinson.
“It’s easier said than done,” Bears safeties coach Andre Curtis said. “I think the best way to defend him is population. Obviously he tests leverage of defenders. He can stress the edge. He can stick his foot in the ground. He can make an abrupt cut. But the first guy has got to make a secure tackle, and then you’ve got to have population with the other guys swarming to the ball. Our goal is to get seven-plus guys on the screen in any given play. If we hold true to that, we’ll be OK. He’s a special player, and he’s going to be hard to stop, but we’re up for the challenge I think.”
The Bears defense will have to execute the “H.I.T.S” principle to the best of its ability on Sunday to limit Robinson’s production, but there are still two other running backs Matt Eberflus’ unit will have to game plan against.
Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson have also contributed to the Falcons’ rushing attack. Allgeier has 646 rushing yards on 175 attempts and has rushed for four touchdowns. Patterson has 161 yards on the ground on 45 rushes. The trio of running backs has helped the Falcons to land at the No. 8 spot in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 129.8.
The Chicago Bears rushing defense is No. 1 in the NFL
This won’t be the first talented backfield the Bears have faced this season. The Detroit Lions currently have the second-best rushing attack in yards per game (141.1) with David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. In the two games the Bears have played against the Lions, Montgomery and Gibbs were held under their team average.
This Week 17 matchup will be a good test for a Bears defense that is ranked No. 1 league at stopping the run, allowing just 80.7 yards per game. The first priority is stopping Robinson, which is easier said than done.
“Their backfield is really good,” Pickens said. “But we also played better backs, too. … In this league, everybody is good, but it’s a little more competition coming up because we’re dealing with a back that can catch and run the ball, so he’s like a dynamic threat. Then they got Cordarrelle Patterson, so it’s like (starts laughing) what do you do? I know coach got us. We’re gonna draw up something and we’re gonna have a good game plan.”
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