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4 things to watch: Bears-Bengals


The Bears will look to snap a five-game losing streak Sunday when they visit the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Here are four storylines to watch in the contest:

(1) Will the Bears offense show improvement or continue to struggle?

Ineffective most of the season, the Bears offense has regressed the last two weeks, mustering only 140 total yards and eight first downs against the Eagles Nov. 26 and 147 yards and eight first downs versus the 49ers last Sunday. The offense has produced only six touchdowns in its last six games and ranks last in the NFL in total yards and passing yards.

Sunday in Cincinnati, the unit will face a Bengals defense that will be missing five starters due to injuries in linebackers Vontaze Burfict (concussion) and Nick Vigil (ankle), cornerbacks Adam Jones (groin) and Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion) and safety Shawn Williams (hamstring).


Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky celebrates a touchdown with receivers Dontrelle Inman and Joshua Bellamy.

The Bears need to rediscover their running game and take advantage of a depleted Bengals secondary that will be minus three of its four starters. Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was efficient in last Sunday's loss to the 49ers, completing 12 of 15 passes for 102 yards with one touchdown and a 117.2 passer rating. But his only completion of more than 14 yards came on a screen pass that running back Tarik Cohen turned into a 21-yard gain by breaking three tackles.

(2) Will the depleted Bears defense be able to weather even more injuries?

The defense continues to lose players at an alarming rate. With safety Adrian Amos (hamstring), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (hip) and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (shoulder) all listed as doubtful on the injury report, the Bears likely will line up without eight of their top players on defense. Outside linebackers Leonard Floyd and Willie Young, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, defensive end Mitch Unrein are all on injured reserve, while safety Quintin Demps recently returned to practice but hasn't played since breaking his arm in a Week 3 win over the Steelers.

Due to the rash of injuries, outside linebacker Lamarr Houston and safety Chris Prosinski both started and played most of last Sunday's game against the 49ers just three days after resigning with the Bears. Houston and Prosinski likely will again see expanded playing time in Cincinnati against a Bengals offense that ranks 31st in the NFL in total yards.

One positive with all the injuries is that it will give a couple of young defensive ends in Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris an opportunity to show what they can do over the final weeks of the season. Both joined the Bears last year and possess intriguing traits.

(3) Will Bears cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara contain Bengals star receiver A.J. Green?

Cincinnati boasts one of the NFL's top quarterback-receiver tandems in Andy Dalton and Green, who connected on seven passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns last Monday in a 23-20 loss to the Steelers. At 6-4 and 205 pounds, Green possesses a rare combination of size, speed and leaping ability. This season he has caught 60 passes for 886 yards and eight touchdowns.

Fuller is coming off his best game of the season last Sunday against the 49ers when he recorded an interception, six tackles, one tackle-for-loss and two pass breakups. The pick was his first since 2015. "It's got to give you some confidence," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "You can read all the books you want or go talk to all the psychologists you want, but there's nothing like getting a pick for your confidence. Hopefully that will lead to some more for him."

Amukamara is still seeking his first interception of the season. "Prince can give you some good coverage outside there," Fangio said. "I'd like to see him get his hands on more balls, either knock them down or preferably get a pick or two. I would like to see him break up more passes and keep the fouls to a minimum."

(4) Will Cohen continue to show why he was nicknamed "The Human Joystick" in college?

The dynamic fourth-round pick has produced several highlight-reel plays in his first NFL season with the Bears. In the process, he's become the league's first rookie to generate a touchdown via a rush, pass, reception and punt return in the same season since Gale Sayers in 1965.

Cohen's latest impact play came last Sunday when he returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown against the 49ers, retreating 15 yards before reversing field and scoring. "I think everybody would be lying if they said they weren't wondering in the first part of that [why Cohen was going in the wrong direction]," Fox said. "The good news is he figured it out quickly and then got to the wall and did a good job. So it worked out really good."

Cohen also had a 67-yard punt return and 25-yard reception that were nullified by penalties. He's certainly the most explosive playmaker on an offense that has struggled to move the ball and score points and is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball.

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