The Bears will look to win back-to-back games for the first time since last November Sunday when they visit the Indianapolis Colts. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) Will super subs Brian Hoyer and Jordan Howard continue to excel?
Starting last Sunday against the Lions because of injuries to quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Jeremy Langford, respectively, Hoyer and Howard gave the Bears their first 300-yard passer and 100-yard rusher in the same game since Nov. 16, 2014 when Cutler and Matt Forte accomplished the feat in a 21-13 win over the Vikings.
The Bears are hoping the super subs pick up Sunday in Indianapolis right where they left off last weekend at Soldier Field. Hoyer played with poise and efficiency in a 17-14 victory over the Lions, passing for 302 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers and a 120.0 passer rating that was the second best in any game Cutler has missed since joining the Bears in 2009.
Jordan Howard rushed for 111 yards on 23 carries in his first NFL start.
Howard was equally impressive, rushing for 111 yards on 23 carries in his first NFL start. The fifth-round draft pick from Indiana displayed good vision, patience and balance. But what impressed his coaches most was the yards that Howard gained after contact. It seemed like the first defender who hit the 6-1, 222-pound running back rarely brought him down.
(2) How will the Bears fill the void left by the injury to receiver Kevin White?
A serious leg injury for the second time in as many years has shelved White, a 2015 first-round pick who seemed to be making major strides before suffering a fractured fibula and high ankle sprain last Sunday against the Lions. His 19 receptions were the most ever by a Bears player in the first four games of a season and it appeared he was developing a good rapport with Hoyer.
Listed second on the depth chart behind White, veteran Eddie Royal presumably will move into a starting role, though Royal has already played a major role for the Bears, catching 18 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns so far this season. Royal's availability for Sunday's game is uncertain, however. He sat out practice all week with a calf injury and is listed as questionable.
With White out and Royal likely less than 100 percent if he even plays, the Bears will have to rely on young receivers Cameron Meredith, Joshua Bellamy and Deonte Thompson. Meredith seems to possess the size, speed and hands to become a productive NFL receiver, but he's still inexperienced at the position after playing quarterback his first three years at Illinois State.
(3) Will the Bears generate consistent pressure on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck?
The Bears tightened up their run defense, limiting the Lions to 66 yards last Sunday after getting gashed for 199 yards and three touchdowns a week earlier in a loss to the Cowboys. Similar strides with their pass rush would be beneficial against Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who was sacked six times last Sunday in a 30-27 loss to the Jaguars in London.
Unfortunately, the Bears' front seven has been decimated by injuries. Lamarr Houston is out for the season with a knee injury, Pernell McPhee remains on the physically unable to perform list, Eddie Goldman is doubtful for Sunday's game and five others are questionable: Jonathan Bullard, Leonard Floyd, Nick Kwiatkoski, Danny Trevathan and Willie Young.
Coach John Fox conceded that the rash of injuries impacts the game plan, saying: "It does a little bit. You have to be ready for a lot of different things as far as other positions being ready, whether you need to pressure a little bit more if it's not coming home with your typical four-man rush. This game is about adjusting. It's no different this week than any week prior."
(4) How will all of their aforementioned injuries affect the Bears?
Injuries aren't an excuse; every NFL team has them. But the reality is that the Bears have been impacted far more than most of their counterparts. On offense, they've lost starters at quarterback (Cutler), running back (Langford), receiver (White) and center (Hroniss Grasu). On defense, they've played without last year's leading sacker (Houston), arguably their best pass rusher (McPhee), this year's top free-agent acquisition (Trevathan), and starters at nose tackle (Goldman) and cornerback (Kyle Fuller).
Cutler, Langford, Goldman and rookie cornerback Deiondre Hall are all listed as doubtful for Sunday's game, meaning they're unlikely to play. But it's unclear how many of the 12 players who are questionable will be able to suit up in Indianapolis. That group includes Bullard, Floyd, Kwiatkoski, Royal, Trevathan, Young, running back Ka'Deem Carey, receiver Alshon Jeffery, left tackle Charles Leno Jr. Jr., cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Sherrick McManis and tight end Zach Miller.