The Bears will look for their fourth straight win when they visit the Miami Dolphins Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) What will quarterback Mitchell Trubisky* and the Bears offense do for an encore following their breakout performance two Sundays ago against the Buccaneers?*
Trubisky became the first player in Bears history to throw five touchdown passes in a half as he staked the Bears to a 38-3 halftime lead in a 48-10 rout of the Buccaneers Sept. 30 at Soldier Field. The second-year quarterback was nearly flawless in the first two quarters, completing 14 of 18 passes for 289 yards and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. He established career highs in the game with six TD passes, 354 yards and a 154.6 passer rating.
Trubisky will look to build on his impressive performance Sunday against a Dolphins defense that leads the NFL with 10 interceptions. Miami is led by defensive backs Xavien Howard—who is tied for the league lead with three interceptions—and rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick.
"That defense prides themselves on taking the ball away," Trubisky said. "You definitely go back and watch those plays and see what happened and what strengths they have on defense and how they put an offense in that position to take the ball away.
"For us, it's just continue to focus on execution; [for] me, emphasizing take care of the football … and just continue to make good decisions and be smart with the football. But we know they're a talented defense. We've got a lot of respect for them and how they've been able to take the ball away. It's just a big emphasis in practice throughout the week that we've got to have 100 percent ball security and that will continue to give us a chance in every single game."
(2) Will Khalil Mack* and the Bears defense continue to play at an elite level?*
The All-Pro pass rusher was named the NFC defensive player of the month for September after registering five sacks and four forced fumbles in his first four games with the Bears. Mack recorded a strip/sack in each of the team's first four contests and returned an interception for a touchdown in the season opener in Green Bay.
Mack isn't the only one making regular contributions on a resurgent defense, however. The unit entered Week 6 leading the NFL in sacks, rushing yards and first downs allowed per game, and tied for second with eight forced fumbles and tied for third with eight interceptions.
"We've done a good job of playing fast and aggressive, which is what we talked about doing early on as a team, and then we're getting the takeaways, which we always harp on," Nagy said. "That's not just something we talk about here and there. We try to discuss that and mention that as much as we can. That's a mindset, and they've followed through with that mindset on that side of the ball. That has been good. The other part of it, too, is we have a bunch of guys that are jelling together on that side of the ball. That trust and that foundation of that defense is really getting stronger and stronger, which is awesome to see."
(3) Will the Bears be able to pick up where they left off before their bye week?
After a 48-10 drubbing of the Buccaneers gave the Bears a three-game winning streak, tight end Trey Burton told reporters that the team's bye week was coming at a bad time. After a week of rest and relaxation, Burton and his teammates will look to regain their momentum.
In first place in the NFC North with a 3-1 record, the Bears have spent the days leading up to Sunday's game in Miami vowing to remain hungry. "That's what you need from veterans on this team," Mack said. "We're in a good spot, but you have to keep looking forward."
(4) Will the Bears be able to contain dangerous return specialist Jakim Grant?
The third-year pro has returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns this season. Grant leads the NFL with a robust 34.4-yard average on 11 kickoff returns—including a 102-yard TD—and ranks second with a 17.9-yard average on eight punt returns—including a 71-yard TD.
"He does everything well," said special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. "He's on a record pace right now. When he touches it, it could go the distance, whether it's the kick-return game, the punt-return game. He'll bring it out [of the end zone], so no matter how deep it is, we're expecting that ball to come out because he's a dynamic player."
Facing Grant, it's more important than ever for the Bears to swarm to the ball.
"Not only does he have great acceleration, he's got great vision," Tabor said. "Although he's a smaller guy, he runs strong. Last week he had a nice kick return against Cincinnati and he breaks an open-field tackle where you think the guy's going to get him down and boom, he just breaks it. He's got a little bit of everything, so that's why we need more hats on the football with him."