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Joniak's Journal: Bears Need To Win More Battles Against Zone Defense

By Jeff Joniak-

(CBS) The Bears (2-3) and Falcons (2-3) are both looking to get back on the winning track when they play in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon. Here's what's on my mind heading into the game.

First impression

If the Bears truly have an offense capable of performing at an elite level like players and coaches suggested all week, then it truly doesn't matter if teams play zone or man or blitz them unconsciously.

"Zone coverage isn't something that should stop our offense," offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. "If things are covered, we check it down to the halfback. If a guy finds an opening in a zone with the route, that's called. We find it and make those throws."

It was the tone Kromer used when he answered the question about the Bears facing more zone than man so far this season that should be noted. The Bears would love to see man coverage every down. They win many battles that way. If they don't get it, so be it. They still have to win those battles against zone.

Second thought

Defensive tackle Stephen Paea repeatedly has mentioned that his contract is up after the season. His mission in 2014 was to get himself stronger, a little heavier and a step quicker -- but most importantly to stay healthy. It's been the one big thing holding back his development at defensive tackle. Paea has looked good at times with a couple of sacks and a handful of pressures playing two positions up front, including at times head up on the center in a 3-4 type look as a nose tackle.

"I'm the healthiest in my career right now, and there is no better time," Paea said.

I'll have more with Paea in Sunday's audio version of Joniak's Journal that can be heard at 1:10 p.m. in WBBM's Countdown to Kickoff pregame show.

Third degree

Brandon Marshall said he wasn't supposed to play with his bad ankle over the last four weeks, adding he was ruled out by doctors for games against the 49ers and Jets. He missed the entire week of practice before the Packers game, getting "special treatment," which he didn't elaborate on. Marshall said last week was the first since the season opener in which he felt like he was truly part of the game plan after practicing.

Marshall credited Carolina coach Ron Rivera for taking him out of the mix with their defensive plan last Sunday, limiting him to just three catches. Marshall insists he isn't upset, in a bad place, challenged mentally or frustrated with only 17 targeted throws in the last three games.

"Anyone questioning where I'm at mentally, know that when I go home, I'm happy," Marshall said.

Marshall wants the ball and needs the ball to move this offense in the right direction. He will get his chances. There's no way he won't. He's too much of a competitor.


Free safety Chris Conte has played only 48 percent of the Bears defensive snaps this season, including just eight in Carolina last week. He played 31 in Week 3 against the Jets, and 22 in Week 2 against the 49ers. In each of those games, he was forced to leave after tweaking his shoulder or after being diagnosed with a concussion. He also suffered a concussion in Seattle in Week 3 of the preseason. It's difficult to prepare a game plan involving Conte with so much uncertainty regarding his health.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.

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