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4 things to watch in Bears-Chiefs game


The Bears (7-7) will look to bounce back from last weekend's loss to the Packers when they host the Chiefs (10-4) Sunday night at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to monitor in the game:

(1) Will the Bears defense be able to contain an explosive Chiefs offense led by star quarterback Patrick Mahomes?

Sunday night's game will feature a strength-versus-strength matchup when a Bears defense that ranks third in the NFL in points allowed (18.1 points per game) battles a Chiefs offense that is fourth in the league in scoring (28.1). Kansas City's potent attack is led by Mahomes, the reigning league MVP who has passed for 3,606 yards with 23 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 106.2 passer rating that ranks sixth in the NFL.

"He's rare, he's elite; whatever adjective you want to put on him," said defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. "The arm talent is crazy. The throws that he makes on schedule are crazy. The off-schedule ones are just mind-boggling; under duress, feet not set, drifting backwards, jumping up in the air, across his body. He's just a tremendous, tremendous player."

This season Mahomes has had games in which he's passed for 446, 443, 378, 374, 340, 321 and 315 yards.

"It's really, really easy for him," Pagano said. "I mean it's crazy, being as young as he is, this guy orchestrates that whole thing and he does a phenomenal job, and he looks like he's been in that system for 10 years."

(2) Will the Bears offense rebound from a disappointing performance in Green Bay?

The Bears entered last Sunday's contest in Green Bay averaging 24.7 points and 376.3 yards during a three-game winning streak. But they managed only 13 points, failing to score on their final three possessions after cutting the deficit from 21-3 to 21-13.

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has improved over the second half of the season, accounting for 14 touchdowns (12 passing and two rushing) in his last six starts after producing five TDs in his first seven games. The third-year pro will face a much-improved Chiefs defense that features a pair of Pro Bowlers in end Frank Clark and tackle Chris Jones.

The Bears passing game has taken a step forward with the emergence of receiver Anthony Miller, who has caught 32 passes for 431 yards and two touchdowns in his last five outings. The ground game has remained stuck in neutral for most of the season, however, with the Bears ranking 29th in the NFL in rushing, averaging just 85.6 yards.

A productive performance from running back David Montgomery would give the offense a big boost. The rookie third-round pick was limited to 39 yards on 14 carries against the Packers after rushing for75 and 86 yards in his previous two outings.

(3) How will a Bears defense that has lost both of its starting inside linebackers to season-ending injuries fare against Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce?

Pressed into starting duty following season-ending injuries to Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis have performed well since joining the No. 1 defense.

On Sunday night, they'll be challenged by Travis Kelce, a perennial Pro Bowler who this year has become the first tight end in NFL history to record four straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

"He's a rare talent," said coach Matt Nagy. "I think that's a good way to put it. And he's going to be that way for a while. He's very friendly to a quarterback. All over the field. You can be backed up at your own 5-yard line, it can be in the red zone, it can be on a shot play.

"He's a mismatch in a lot of ways. You got guys that are too small. You got guys that are too slow. And so that part, that combination, and then you say, 'OK, this guy's as talented as he is and he cares as much as he does.' It's an integral piece of their offense and it definitely helps out."

(4) Will the "student" be able to defeat the "teacher" when Nagy battles his mentor, Chiefs coach Andy Reid?

Prior to being hired by the Bears in 2018, Nagy had spent his entire 10-year NFL coaching career as an assistant under Reid with the Eagles and Chiefs. Nagy is very grateful to Reid and considers him a close friend and mentor. But both men are determined to win their first regular-season clash Sunday night at Soldier Field.

"When the game's going on, [Reid] will be the first one to tell you we're competitors," Nagy said. "I think that's what kind of helps us, and what helps us relate to one another is we're both competitive. We like competitive people on our staff. We like competitive players."

Nagy regularly talks to Reid during the course of the season, but the two only spoke briefly early this week in advance of Sunday night's game.

"When the whistle blows and we're going out there to play against one another, he's going to be doing everything he can to put it to us," Nagy said. "We're going to do everything we can to win the game. We both respect that. That's task-related; that's not personal. But before and after, he's completely family to me."

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