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4 things to watch in Bears-Lions game

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

The Bears (3-6) will look to snap a two-game losing streak when they host the Lions (2-6) Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to follow in the game:

(1) What will Justin Fields do for an encore?

The dynamic dual-threat quarterback is playing the best football in his two seasons with the Bears, accounting for nine of his team's 11 touchdowns in the last three games. Last Sunday Fields rushed for 178 yards—the most by an NFL quarterback in a regular-season game—posted a 106.7 passer rating and produced four touchdowns in a 35-32 shootout loss to the Dolphins. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy described some of Fields' plays as "miraculous" and "unbelievable."

Fields will look to remain red hot Sunday against a Lions defense that ranks last in the NFL in points allowed (29.3 per game) and total yards (417.3 per game), though the unit is coming off its best game of the season. Last Sunday Detroit intercepted three Aaron Rodgers passes in a 15-9 win over the Packers at Ford Field, snapping a five-game losing streak. It was the first time this season that the Lions allowed fewer than 24 points in a game and the first time they've generated multiple takeaways. 

Fields is a key reason the Bears lead the NFL in rushing with an average of 195.4 yards per game. He's compiled 602 yards on the ground, tops on the Bears and second among NFL quarterbacks behind the Ravens' Lamar Jackson's 635 yards. Fields has also excelled as a passer; he's thrown for touchdowns in five straight games, including a career-high three last weekend against the Dolphins.

(2) Will the Bears defense show improvement?

The Bears defense has struggled mightily of late, allowing 10 touchdowns in its last two games, more than doubling its output of 11 in the previous five contests. In back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Dolphins, the unit permitted 821 total yards, 14-of-21 third-down conversions and eight TDs on 10 red-zone possessions.

The defense has especially faltered early in games; the Cowboys scored TDs on their first four possessions in a 49-29 drubbing two weeks ago, and the Dolphins had four 75-yard TD drives on their first five series last weekend at Soldier Field. 

"[It's] tough when you give up that many points in that short of a period, especially when early on we were eliminating touchdowns and down on points," said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. "But I'm trying not to overreact to, hey, two ballgames and still cognizant of what we're trying to get done, where we're going."

The defense will look to rebound Sunday against a Lions offense that has averaged just 12.0 points in its last four games after averaging 35.0 in its first four contests. Although their scoring has declined, the Lions are one of two NFL teams—the undefeated Eagles are the other—that entered Week 10 with an offense that ranks in the top 10 in the NFL in total yards (7th), rushing yards (9th) and passing (8th).

(3) How much will Chase Claypool's role expand?

The third-year receiver somehow played 26 snaps last Sunday against the Dolphins less than a week after being acquired by the Bears in a trade with the Steelers. Getsy conceded that it was even more playing time than he expected, but Claypool proved to be a quick study. The 6-4, 238-pounder caught two passes for 13 yards, gained four yards on a jet sweep and drew a 28-yard pass interference penalty on the Bears' first possession.

With a full week of practice under his belt, Claypool could make an even bigger impact Sunday versus the Lions.

"He's getting more comfortable," said coach Matt Eberflus. "We are expanding the package for him. He's doing a lot of different things for us there; different spots, different locations. I think it's healthy. It's growing at the right pace. We're excited to see where it's going to go."

While Claypool has been able to digest the playbook quickly, he's continuing to develop cohesiveness with his new teammates.

"Now, it's just about getting the feel and experience with the other players," Eberflus said. "How do I play off the quarterback? How do I play off the tight ends? The route running and combinations. That's just experience and time that will help him with that."

(4) Will the Bears defense be able to generate more pressure on the quarterback?

The Bears are tied for 29th in the NFL with just 13.0 sacks this season, including only eight in their last seven games. Last Sunday versus Miami, the defense failed to record a sack, takeaway or tackle-for-loss.

"Just like we did when we had the mini-bye, you look at where you can get better and you look at who you have," Williams said. "It's not just player-driven; some of it is coordinator-driven. Ultimately, I'm responsible for the pass rush. I have to be creative [in] putting guys in position to accentuate what they do well. Some places I need to be more aggressive. Some places I need to let the guys rush and mix up the looks that we're giving to people."

The Lions have permitted just 13.0 sacks this year, fourth fewest in the NFL. Quarterback Jared Goff is protected by an offensive line that features three first-round draft picks in left tackle Taylor Decker (2016), center Frank Ragnow (2018) and right tackle Penei Sewell (2021).

"The O-line has done a good job," Eberflus said. "It's the strength of their team. They have a couple of good strengths there, but one of them is the offensive line and the experience they have there. I think Jared does a good job of getting rid of it. He's got a lot of experience. He knows when things break down to get rid of it and not take the sack. It's a combination of a good offensive line and experience with the quarterback."

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