The Bears host the Indianapolis Colts Sunday at Soldier Field seeking their first 4-0 start since 2006. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) In his first start as Bears quarterback, will Nick Foles pick up where he left off last Sunday against the Falcons?
Foles replaced an ineffective Mitchell Trubisky in the second half in Atlanta and threw three touchdown passes in the final 6:20 to turn a 26-10 deficit into a dramatic 30-26 win over the Falcons. The ninth-year pro was anointed the Bears' No. 1 quarterback by coach Matt Nagy on Monday and took first-team reps throughout the week in practice.
Foles should benefit from that preparation, but the task he faces Sunday won't be an easy one. The Colts defense has allowed the fewest points (15.0 per game), total yards (225.3) and passing yards (132.0) in the NFL. The unit also returned two interceptions for touchdowns in last weekend's 36-7 win over the Jets and has recorded a safety via a sack in each of its last two games.
"We need to make sure ball security is No. 1," said coach Matt Nagy. "That's every game, but they've shown here what they can do. They're an opportunistic defense and you have to stay ahead of the sticks as well. Now that's kind of generic saying that, but that's real. Their stats aren't fluffed up at all. They're a really good defense."
(2) Will the Bears continue to run the ball effectively?
The Bears entered Week 4 ranked 11th in the NFL in rushing, averaging 138.0 yards per game, and seventh in the league in yards per attempt at 4.9. That's a vast improvement over last season when they ranked 27th and 29th in those categories with averages of 91.1 and 3.7 yards, respectively.
The Bears have committed to establishing the run, and running back David Montgomery and the offensive line have responded to the challenge. Montgomery leads the team in rushing with 191 yards on 43 carries and has also caught six passes for 64 yards and one touchdown. The Bears may lean even more on Montgomery after losing running back Tarik Cohen for the rest of the season with a torn right ACL last weekend against the Falcons.
Receiver-turned-running back Cordarrelle Patterson also could help pick up the slack in Cohen's absence. So far this season, he has rushed for 57 yards on 15 carries and caught three passes for 20 yards. Patterson would be just fine with an expanded role, saying: "Whatever coach throws at me, I'm ready for it. Each and every week, whenever my number's called, I try to go out there and make a play."
(3) Will the Bears defense be able to contain Colts quarterback Philip Rivers?
In his first season in Indianapolis after 16 years with the Chargers, Rivers has completed a league-leading 78.3 percent of his passes for 794 yards with three touchdowns, three interceptions and a 99.9 passer rating while being sacked just twice in three games. Rivers has been one of the most durable players in NFL history, starting all 16 games each of the last 14 seasons.
"I just have a lot of respect for him," Nagy said. "I was able to coach him in the Pro Bowl when I was in Kansas City, so I got to know him a little bit there. You just have a fond respect for him. He's somebody that gave us fits in Kansas City. The game was never over with him at quarterback. He was never out of it. To be the age that he's at right now (38), to have the success he's had just speaks volumes to who he is as a competitor."
The Bears know that they must generate consistent pressure on Rivers via a pass rush that's led by outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who leads the team with 3.5 sacks.
(4) Will the Bears run defense perform better than it has so far this season?
Typically stout against the run, the Bears defense has struggled in that vital aspect of the game at times this season, ranking 17th in the NFL. Last Sunday in Atlanta, the Bears allowed Falcons running backs Todd Gurley and Brian Hill to rush for a combined 138 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, an average of 6.0 yards per attempt.
This Sunday, the Bears will face rookie running back Jonathan Taylor, a second-round draft pick from Wisconsin who has rushed for 182 yards and two TDs on 48 carries this season. Taylor runs behind an elite offensive line that's led by left guard Quenton Nelson. The sixth overall pick in the 2018 draft out of Notre Dame has been named first-team All-Pro and voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two NFL seasons.
"Jonathan Taylor, just knowing what he did last year in college and now what he's doing now, I have a lot of respect for him as a football player and as a back," Nagy said. "When he catches the ball, he can take it the distance. When he hits a crease in the run game, he can take it the distance. But where it all starts is up front, and that offensive line that they have is dominant. They're very physical, they're nasty. They do a lot of good things in the run game. They do a really good job, that unit, that offensive line, of working in tandem together and creating a lot of holes for their backs."