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4 things to watch: Bears-Jaguars

The Bears will look to win back-to-back home games for the first time since Nov. 2014 Sunday when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:

(1) Will the Bears eliminate or at least reduce the costly mistakes on offense that have kept them from putting points on the board?

The Bears rank ninth in the NFL in total yards (372.4 per game) but just 30th in scoring (17.0 per game). The discrepancy is due in large part to key penalties that have stalled drives.

In last Sunday's loss to the Colts, the Bears drew three flags for 30 yards on their first possession, including a facemask foul on Jordan Howard that nullified Cameron Meredith's eight-yard run to the Indianapolis 1. Later in the first half, a holding penalty on Kyle Long erased Eddie Royal's four-yard catch on third-and-three from the Colts' 21.


Brian Hoyer passed for 397 yards last Sunday which is the most ever by a Bears quarterback in a game without an interception.

In both cases, the Bears were forced to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns, costing them a potential eight points in a 29-23 loss.

"We've got to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds," said quarterback Brian Hoyer. "Can't have the penalties, things like that, holding us back, when we get down, especially in the red area. I think all of our penalties happened inside the 40, so that's taking potential points off the board. We've got to stop doing that and continue doing what we're doing well."

(2) Will the Bears play better complementary football by forcing more turnovers on defense?

Another reason the Bears gain a lot of yards but don't score a ton of points is because their offense rarely if ever gets to take advantage of a short field following a takeaway.

It's no coincidence that the only game they've won this year—a 17-14 Week 3 victory the Lions—is the only contest in which they've generated at least two takeaways.

With the Bears defense not producing any turnovers against the Colts, the offense was forced to march the length of the field. The only Bears possession that began beyond their own 25 in the game is when Deonte Thompson returned the opening kickoff 32 yards to the Chicago 32.

The Bears briefly took the lead midway through the fourth quarter with an impressive nine-play, 96-yard touchdown drive. But they can't rely on lengthy drives like that on a regular basis.

Turnovers often come with pressure on the quarterback and the Bears recorded five sacks in Indianapolis after registering just six in the first three games of the season.

(3) Will veteran backup Brian Hoyer continue to excel in place of the injured Jay Cutler?

Since Cutler sustained a sprained right thumb in a Week 2 loss to the Eagles, Hoyer has become the first quarterback in Bears history to pass for at least 300 yards without an interception in three straight games. His 397 yards last Sunday against the Colts were the most ever by a Bears quarterback in a game without an interception.

Hoyer has been criticized for not throwing the ball enough to star receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has 13 receptions for 129 yards on 18 targets in the last three games. But with the exception of missing Jeffery on the final offensive play in Indianapolis, Hoyer has generally done an excellent job of going through his progressions and finding open receivers. That was especially evident on his 21-yard TD pass to Howard against the Colts. Hoyer looked to his right and then to his left before dumping the ball off over the middle to the wide open running back.

Hoyer has also excelled at getting rid of the ball quickly and avoiding sacks, and he certainly has benefited from playing behind an improved offensive line and a better running game.

(4) Will the Bears win back-to-back home games and continue Jacksonville's woes on the road?

The Bears haven't won consecutive games at Soldier Field since Nov. 16 and 23, 2014, when they beat the Vikings and Buccaneers by identical 21-13 scores. After going 1-7 at home last season, the Bears can improve to 2-1 this year after losing to the Eagles and beating the Lions.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, are 1-16 on the road since the start of the 2015 season and have been outscored by an average of 30.8-17.8 in those games. Their only win during that stretch was a 22-20 victory over the Ravens in Baltimore last season.

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