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4 things to watch in Bears-Cardinals game


The Bears (4-7) will look to win their second straight game Sunday when they host the Cardinals (9-2) at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to watch in the contest:

(1) How will the Bears offense fare with veteran quarterback Andy Dalton making his second straight start in place of injured rookie Justin Fields?

With Fields still recovering from broken ribs he sustained Nov. 21 against the Ravens, Dalton will look to pick up where he left off Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. In a 16-14 win over the Lions, the 11th-year pro passed for 317 yards, the most by a Bears quarterback since Nick Foles' 335 yards Nov. 8, 2020 in Tennessee.

After preparing to face the Lions on a short week, Dalton took reps with the No. 1 offense in three full practices this week. "You get full-speed reps," he said. "I think that's important. Last week, most of the stuff was walk-through and everything, so it's good to have a full week of preparation going into it."

Even with Dalton's 300-yard outing, the Bears mustered only one touchdown against the winless Lions. The inability to get into the end zone has been an issue all season, with the offense producing just 17 TDs in 11 games. And it's not going to be easy to score Sunday against a stingy Cardinals defense that ranks fourth in the NFL in points per game (18.4).

(2) Will Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins play?

The two most explosive stars on the Arizona offense are both game-time decisions after returning to practice this week on a limited basis after missing the Cardinals' last three contests. Neither has played since an Oct. 28 loss to the Packers, with Murray sidelined by an ankle injury and Hopkins with a hamstring issue.

Murray leads the NFL with a 110.4 passer rating and a 72.7 completion percentage, throwing for 2,276 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft can also scramble and extend plays with his legs. "He can obviously beat you with his arm strength and his feet," said Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai. "He's becoming a much more patient passer in the pocket, where he'll scramble to throw, and it's dangerous as a coverage guy. You're kind of nervous: 'Is this guy going to throw or is he going to run it?' He's a fast guy and he can still make you miss in the open field."

If Murray is unable to play, veteran Colt McCoy will make his fourth straight start. McCoy has led the Cardinals to a 2-1 record, posting passer ratings of 119.4 and 112.9 in leading Arizona to 31-17 and 23-13 wins over the 49ers and Seahawks, respectively, sandwiched around a loss to the Panthers.

(3) Will an injury-depleted Bears defense continue trending in the right direction?

Despite playing without injured stars Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, the Bears have held each of their last two opponents under 17 points in a 16-13 loss to the Ravens and a 16-14 win over the Lions. The defense has limited its last three opponents to under 300 total yards—including a season-low 239 yards in Detroit—after surrendering 408 and 467 yards in back-to-back losses to the Buccaneers and 49ers.

Led by NFC defensive player of the month Robert Quinn, the pass rush has produced 11 sacks in the last three games after being blanked versus Tampa Bay and San Francisco. Quinn earned the award by registering 5.5 sacks in three November games. He enters Week 13 tied for fourth in the NFL with 11.0 sacks.

The Bears hope to not only pressure the quarterback Sunday but to generate some takeaways. The defense has produced just three takeaways in the last six games, including only one interception (by Tashaun Gipson Sr. against the Ravens).

While Hicks has been ruled out of Sunday's contest, the Bears are hopeful that Roquan Smith will be able to play. The star inside linebacker is expected to be a game-time decision due to a hamstring injury that forced him to exit the Bears' Thanksgiving win over the Lions.

(4) Who will fill the void on a thinned-out Bears' receiving corps?

Injuries have also been an issue at receiver. The Bears are expected to line up without two of their top three wideouts: Allen Robinson II is listed as doubtful due to a hamstring injury he suffered Nov. 8 in Pittsburgh and Marquise Goodwin has been ruled out with foot and rib issues.

Second-year pro Darnell Mooney has continued to blossom, registering 121- and 123-yard outings the past two weeks. His 244 yards in that span are the second most by an NFL receiver behind the Vikings' Justin Jefferson (252).

Mooney, obviously, can't do it by himself. On Sunday, Damiere Byrd will attempt to make the most of expanded playing time like he did against the Lions. Entering the Thanksgiving contest with five receptions for 32 yards this season, Byrd caught four passes for 42 yards. He sustained the Bears' late game-winning field-goal drive with receptions of 13 yards on third-and-5 and seven yards on third-and-4.

Speedy receiver Jakeem Grant Sr. also figures to get more opportunities on offense. The Bears' return specialist played 19 snaps against the Lions and caught two passes for 25 yards.

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