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Pregame Warmup

4 things to watch in Bears-Cardinals game

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The Bears will look for their second straight win when they visit the Cardinals Sunday in Arizona. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:

(1) Will second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky continue to grow and develop?

Trubisky will look to build upon the strides he made in Monday night's 24-17 win over the Seahawks, when he showed improved pocket presence and a better next-play mentality. The Bears quarterback rebounded after throwing two interceptions to complete 12 of 14 passes in the second half, including a key 10-yard touchdown to rookie Anthony Miller.

"Any time you throw an interception, it can be hard on a quarterback," said coach Matt Nagy. "We're preaching as a staff and together as players this next-play mentality approach. For him, what I thought was growth [Monday] was the fact that he didn't let a bad play, for instance an interception, affect his next play or his next series. That's important. He's going to understand he can't be perfect. There's going to be times where there's going to be a mistake or you make a poor throw or poor decision. But as long as we don't repeat that thing, then we're growing."

Heading into Sunday's game in Arizona, the Bears are seeking more consistency from Trubisky and the offense. In each of the first two contests this year, the unit has scored a touchdown on its first drive and then struggled on its next several possessions.

"For him, all I care about is sustained drives," Nagy said. "Get rid of the three-and-outs. The ball security, we stress that. But I understand that there's some really good quarterbacks in this league that turn the ball over. They're not trying to turn it over, so you've got to recover from that. He grew [against the Seahawks]. Next-play mentality, we grew from that. Sustain that. Keep that going. Don't just make that a one-game shot."

(2) Will the Bears defense continue to excel and not take a struggling opponent for granted?

The Bears defense against the Cardinals offense is a mismatch on paper, but the game won't be played on paper; it'll be contested on natural grass at the newly-named State Farm Stadium. The Bears enter Week 3 leading the NFL with 10 sacks and tied for first with five forced fumbles, and they've returned interceptions for touchdowns in each of the first two games of a season for the first time since 1950. The winless Cardinals, meanwhile, rank last in the league in points (6), point differential (minus-52), total yards (175.0 per game) and passing yards (114.0).

It does not appear that the Bears are looking past the Cardinals. "They kept the same energy all week that they had the previous two weeks in practice," Nagy said. "We need to translate that to the playing field. It's way too early in the season right now to worry about somebody's record and how they're playing. We can't do that, and if we do that we're in trouble. I feel very good about the mindset of our team and their focus."

The Bears defense has been led by Khalil Mack, who has a pick-six, two strip/sacks and a fumble in his first two games. But several others have contributed; eight different players have recorded at least one sack. Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan was named NFC defensive player of the week after he registered a team-high eight tackles and two sacks as well as one tackle-for-loss, two quarterback hits and one forced fumble against the Seahawks. In the same game, cornerback Prince Amukamara returned an interception 49 yards for his first career touchdown.

(3) Will the Bears get more out of their running game than they did versus the Seahawks?

The Bears hope to get more production on the ground Sunday after running backs Jordan Howard (14 carries for 35 yards) and Tarik Cohen (4-8) were limited to a combined 43 yards on 18 rushes against the Seahawks. "One thing that can help a quarterback out is a run game and we just didn't average enough yards [Monday night] in the run game," Nagy said. "I think we can be better there."

Nagy acknowledged that Howard didn't carry the ball enough to get into a rhythm. His rushing attempts were spread out on the Bears' 11 possessions as follows: 1, 2, 0, 1, 3, 1, 1, 3, 0, 2 and 0. "He didn't have a whole lot of opportunities. Those guys (running backs), just like quarterbacks, you want to try to get in a rhythm. There wasn't a time where we got into multiple runs and he was really feeling into the groove and into a rhythm. Like anything, you want to be able to have those opportunities. In that game, we just didn't have it. Those guys, the offensive line, running backs, tight ends, they all realize how important it is to get that running game going. He's a guy that relies on that."

(4) Will the Bears stack wins and get above .500 for the first time since 2014?

A victory Sunday in the desert would give the Bears back-to-back and wins for the first time since last Oct. 15-22 when they beat the Panthers and Ravens. It would also give them a winning record for the first time since they were 2-1 in 2014. The Bears haven't handled prosperity well of late, losing seven of eight games that have immediately followed a win in 2016-17.

"It would mean a lot," said defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who joined the Bears in 2015. "Let's just be honest about it. We haven't had a winning season since I've been here, so everybody is excited to see what we can do and to see how good we actually can be."

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