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Chess match win unfold Monday night in Chicago

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If you're looking for an interesting chess match to observe, you should cast your eyes on the Monday night battle between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. Mike Martz and Dom Capers will match wits on the big stage, and the winner will have a significant impact on the outcome of the game.

Capers has transformed the Packers into one of the league's top-ranked defenses in a little over a year by utilizing an aggressive 3-4 zone-blitz scheme, known for its complex overload blitzes. The quarterback's indecision from deciphering the coverage typically results in costly miscues.

Green Bay has picked up where it left off from last season, when it finished tops in run defense, takeaways and interceptions. In two games, the Packers have battered quarterbacks with their relentless pressure, tallying a league-high 10 sacks in two games.

The thought of facing such a dynamic blitz system would keep some coordinators up at night, but not Martz. He relishes the challenge of dismantling top defenses.

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As an innovative play-caller with an ultra-aggressive mentality, Martz turns the tables on attack-style units by using an assortment of spread formations, motions and shifts to keep defenders on their heels. He also puts forth multiple personnel groupings that create favorable matchups for his top weapons.

The Bears have frequently shifted into an assortment of bunch formations and incorporated various motions to free up his receivers on crossing routes. Spread formations have helped Jay Cutler identify potential rushers and get the ball to the "hot" receivers before the pressure arrives.

The system worked flawlessly against the Cowboys, as Cutler found a rhythm midway through the second quarter and picked apart the Cowboys' secondary with an assortment of quick rhythm completions to his top receivers in space. There were also enough vertical throws to keep the Cowboys from shrinking the field with their coverage. The results: Chicago racked up 308 yards of total offense with Cutler setting the pace by connecting on 21 of 29 attempts for 277 yards and three touchdowns.

The Packers will have to spend most of their time looking over tapes of the Bears' last few games, but they should probably also spend some time looking at their playoff matchup with the Arizona Cardinals last year. They can't play defense like they did that day, when they surrendered 531 yards to Kurt Warner and Co.

New no-name defense dominating early

The Miami Dolphins' defense is not regarded as the main attraction in the team's matchup with the New York Jets, but it may very well steal the headlines by game's end on Sunday night.

The unit has been sensational during the opening stages of the season, and first-year defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has transformed a cast of no-names into a juggernaut.

Much like he did a season ago with the Broncos, Nolan has implemented a 3-4 system that features a lot of movement to disrupt the blocking scheme at the point of attack. He cleverly varies his coverage behind the pressure to prevent the quarterback from finding a solid rhythm in the pocket.

Although Nolan's creative schemes have befuddled their first two opponents, the outstanding performance of several unheralded players has keyed the defense's ascension. Cameron Wake and free-agent pickup Karlos Dansby have taken turns providing timely playmaking, and their emergence has made the Dolphins difficult to move the ball on.

Wake, the former CFL Defensive Player of the Year, has been a disruptive force off the edge. He has recorded a sack in each of the Dolphins' first two games, and his consistent pressure has forced opposing quarterbacks into a series of hurried throws. He's been better than advertised against the run and has repeatedly been in the opponent's backfield (2.5 tackles for loss). That penetration has prevented opponents from attacking the edges with the run.


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Dansby, the team's marquee free-agent acquisition, has exceeded expectations as the designated playmaker in the middle. He has given Nolan a multi-dimensional defender to fill a variety of roles. As a rusher or in coverage, Dansby has shown an uncanny knack for getting around the ball. While his exploits as a pass defender are laudable, his solid presence against the run has been crucial. He quickly diagnoses plays on the run, and his ability to shoot gaps makes him difficult to keep out of the play. Against the Vikings, it was his quick recognition of the power run that keyed the Dolphins' critical stop at the goal line on fourth-and-1 late in the game.

The Jets provide a stern test with their powerful running game, so the Dolphins will need Wake and Dansby to be on top of their games to have a chance to corral Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson. The duo has keyed the Jets' eighth-ranked rushing attack, and Adrian Peterson's big day (28 carries for 145 yards and one touchdown) ensures that the Dolphins' defense will be tested again on the ground.

With the game likely coming down to the success of the Jets' ground attack, we will soon see if the Dolphins' new no-name defense is ready for primetime.

Cowboys wise to run

The Cowboys' fan base has directed its ire towards Wade Phillips following the team's surprising 0-2 start, but the team's supporters should not let Jason Garrett off the hook for the offense's underachievement.

The Cowboys are averaging only 13.5 points per game and have yet to show the explosiveness that many expected to see from a supposed title contender. Some of the offense's poor performance can be tied to the line woes, but Garrett should bear the brunt of the criticism due to the lack of balance in the play selection.

The Cowboys have only called running plays 29 percent of the time, and the lack of attempts have contributed to the team averaging only 69.5 rushing yards per game (28th in the league). That shouldn't be the case with one of the league's deepest and most talented backfields featuring Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. This is a dynamic trio with exceptional skills and the potential to wear down defenses when given a substantial workload.

If the Cowboys could establish the run, defenses would be forced to use more eight-man fronts, which will create more one-on-one opportunities for receivers on the outside. Not only that, the consistent threat of the run will allow Garrett to incorporate more play-action passes into the game plan.

The onus will fall on the offensive line, which is finally healthy after playing with mismatch pieces for most of the preseason. Marc Colombo and Kyle Kosier returned to the lineup last week, and their return gives the Cowboy a powerful frontline capable of moving defenders off the ball. There should be no reason to avoid pounding the ball relentlessly between the tackles.

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To his credit, Garrett has attempted to establish the run at the outset of each game (Cowboys called runs on 13 of their first 26 plays against Chicago), but the lack of production discouraged the team. However, a close examination of the Cowboys' two touchdown drives this season indicates that a more balanced approach yields better results.

The Cowboys' six-play touchdown drive against the Redskins featured four runs, and their 13-play touchdown drive against the Bears included five runs. While the team netted only a handful of yardage on those carries, the persistence kept Washington and Chicago from loading up against their aerial attack.

With the Texans next on the schedule, the Cowboys would be wise to use a multi-dimensional game plan to keep Matt Schaub and Co. on the sidelines.

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