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4 things to watch: Bears-Ravens

Posted Oct 14, 2017

Senior writer Larry Mayer identifies four storylines to watch Sunday when the Bears visit the Ravens, including how rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will fare in his first career road start.


The Bears will look to rebound from back-to-back losses to the Packers and Vikings when they visit the Ravens Sunday in Baltimore. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:

(1) How will Mitchell Trubisky fare in his first NFL road start?

After the rookie quarterback made his first start last Monday night against the Vikings at Soldier Field, the degree of difficulty increases when Trubisky hits the road for the first time Sunday in Baltimore. "It'll be a good challenge for us this weekend going on the road," Trubisky said. "It was nice to play at home in Soldier Field, but going to Baltimore will be a good challenge for us. We've got to get ready for a hostile crowd and everything that comes with that. So we just need to be even more crisp in our operation and our communication in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage and those types of things so we can be on the same page and execute clean."

The Bears have spent the week in practice preparing Trubisky and the rest of the offense for what they will experience Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. "What we try to do is create the environment, whether it's crowd noise or operating where you can't really hear," said coach John Fox. "There are visual signals as well as verbal calls. The crowd always does mess with you. It's harder to play on the road, no doubt about it. There is no place like home. So you just try to create that environment the best you can and give them the looks."

(2) Will Trubisky's teammates provide better support around him?

Mitchell Trubisky
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky hands the ball off to running back Jordan Howard.

Trubisky performed well in his NFL debut, but his teammates on offense didn't give him much help. The unit committed six penalties in the game's first 20 minutes, repeatedly putting the Bears in predictable passing situations and stalling drives. One flag erased Jordan Howard's 42-yard touchdown run and another nullified Trubisky's 26-yard completion to Tre McBride.

"My biggest concern is to make sure the other 10 guys around him are doing their jobs," said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. "I think we hurt him a little bit, those two plays, the [68] yards taken off. The kid's going to be special and we've got to do our jobs around him; keep getting in the right spot, make plays and catch the football, and making sure we're keeping him out of first-and-17s. We have a lot of faith and confidence in Mitchell."

Self-inflicted wounds have been an ongoing theme for the Bears offense this season. "For us in these first five games we've beaten ourselves over and over again," said tight end Zach Miller. "The penalties and the turnovers are the top two things. For us offensively, we've had key penalties at key points, taking points off the board, getting out of scoring range. If we clean that up, we at least give ourselves an opportunity down the road to be in it."

(3) Will the return of inside linebacker Danny Trevathan help solidify the Bears defense?

Depleted at inside linebacker by injuries and Trevathan's suspension for an illegal hit on Packers receiver Davante Adams, the Bears defense got gashed on the ground by the Vikings last Monday night. Minnesota rushed for 126 of its 159 yards in the second half, when John Timu exited with knee and ankle injuries, joining Jerrell Freeman and Nick Kwiatkoski on the sideline. Freeman and Kwiatkoski both have been unable to play due to pectoral injuries.

With Trevathan returning Sunday, the Bears defense should be much better equipped to face a Ravens rushing attack that ranks sixth in the NFL, averaging 130.4 yards per game. The defense should also operate more efficiently across the board with the veteran Trevathan calling signals for the unit. "He'll definitely help us coming back," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

(4) Will the Bears finally win the turnover battle for the first time this year?

With three takeaways and 12 giveaways, the Bears rank last in the NFL with a minus-nine turnover differential. That includes minus-seven on the road after losing the turnover battle 4-1 and 4-0 in 22- and 21-point defeats in Tampa Bay and Green Bay, respectively.

The Bears defense has only generated two takeaways in five games this season—a third came on special teams—after mustering an all-time franchise-low 11 last year. "We need them," Fangio said. "We're doing a lot of good things, but we're not getting the ball taken away. When we get close, we've got to take advantage of our opportunities. It's frustrating. We'd like to get them. We need them as a team. It would help everybody if we could get some, especially if we can get them where it turns the field around and we can give a short field to our offense."

In the last two seasons, the Bears are 1-13 when they lose the turnover margin and 3-4 when it's equal (2-2) or they win it (1-2).