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4 things to watch in Bears-Packers game

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

The Bears (3-9) will look to snap a five-game losing streak when they host the Packers (4-8) Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to follow in the game:

(1) How will Justin Fields perform in his return to action?

The Bears are hoping that the dynamic second-year quarterback, who is expected to start after missing last Sunday's game against the Jets with a left shoulder injury, will pick up where he left off before getting hurt two weeks ago versus the Falcons.

Fields blossomed into an impact player beginning in mid-October, producing several highlight reel plays that showcased his sensational dual-threat ability. In his last five starts, the 2021 first-round draft pick has accounted for 15 touchdowns, rushing for 552 yards and six TDs on 68 carries and completing 73 of 123 passes for 773 yards with nine TDs, three interceptions and a 92.0 passer rating.

Fields entered Week 13 ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing and first among quarterbacks with 834 yards and seven touchdowns on 122 carries. He has also recorded a rushing TD and a passing TD in five straight games, tying Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray for the longest streak in the Super Bowl era.

Fields will face a Packers defense that allowed 363 yards rushing last Sunday night in a 40-33 loss to the Eagles, including 157 yards on 17 carries by quarterback Jalen Hurts and 143 yards and two TDs on 21 attempts by running back Miles Sanders.

Several Bears players and coaches rocked special footwear for the team's My Cause My Cleats game December 4th against the Packers. Take an exclusive look at each person's custom spikes, which were created to support a charitable organization of their choice.

(2) How will a depleted Bears defense fare against longtime nemesis Aaron Rodgers?

The four-time NFL MVP has dominated the Bears for more than a decade, and although he's experiencing a down year by his high standards, Rodgers will face a decimated defense Sunday at Soldier Field.

Five key players who started the Week 2 game between the rivals in Green Bay will not be on the field: Defensive end Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith were traded; safety Eddie Jackson is out for the season with a foot injury; and rookie defensive backs Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker remain in concussion protocol.

The Bears' starting safeties are expected to be versatile veteran DeAndre Houston-Carson and rookie Elijah Hicks, a seventh-round pick who played his first NFL snaps on defense in last Sunday's loss to the Jets.

Rodgers was named NFL MVP each of the last two seasons but has already thrown nine interceptions this year, his most since 2010 when he had 11. He's still the same player who has feasted on the Bears, however, winning 21 of the last 23 games he's started and finished versus Chicago, including seven straight and 11 of the last 12.

In his last five meetings against the Bears, Rodgers has posted passer ratings of 132.3, 147.9, 128.0, 141.1 and 131.1. In his last 16 contests versus Chicago, he's thrown for 42 touchdowns and two interceptions.

(3) How will the Bears replace top receiver Darnell Mooney?

The season-ending ankle injury that Mooney sustained last Sunday against the Jets leaves a void that the Bears hope to fill with multiple receivers.

"I think it's going to be by committee," said coach Matt Eberflus. "I think we're going to have to spread the ball around. Obviously, Mooney is a dynamic player. He's had a good chemistry with Justin and the rest of the quarterbacks, and I think we've got to do it by committee, using all of them the best way we can based on their skillsets."

Equanimeous St. Brown has started all 12 games, excelling as a blocker while also catching 14 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown. Veterans Byron Pringle and Chase Claypool are among those expected to help pick up the slack.

Injuries have limited Pringle to six games this season, but he has appeared in the last three contests and appears to be fully healthy. Last Sunday he caught two passes for 12 yards and one touchdown against the Jets.

Claypool's playing time has increased over the past three weeks, from 19 snaps against the Lions to 29 versus the Falcons to 38 against the Jets. Last Sunday he had two catches for 51 yards—the most yards in the four games he's played since being acquired by the Bears in a trade with the Steelers.

Rookie Velus Jones Jr. also could be called upon to help make up for the loss of Mooney, who leads Bears receivers with 40 catches for 493 yards.

(4) Will the Bears be able to contain the Packers running game?

While Rodgers is the marquee star on the Green Bay offense, running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon provide a potent 1-2 punch in the backfield. In a 27-10 win over the Bears earlier this season at Lambeau Field, the Packers rushed for 203 yards and one touchdown on 38 carries. Jones ran for 132 yards and one TD on 15 attempts and Dillon added 61 yards on 18 carries. 

The Bears run defense entered Week 13 ranked 27th in the NFL, allowing an average of 143.9 yards per game. In last Sunday's loss to the Jets, the unit yielded 158 yards and one TD on 32 carries, an average of 4.9 yards per rush. 

Missed tackles were an issue, particularly on Ty Johnson's 32-yard touchdown run, with four Bears defenders getting their hands on the Jets running back but failing to bring him down. Eberflus told reporters this week that the Bears were tackling too high in that game and worked on lowering their pad level throughout the week in practice. 

"You show it in the meetings," Eberflus said. "You walk through it. You show them where we need to be in terms of our pad level. You get in that position when you're approaching the tackle in practice. Obviously, we can't take guys down in practice, but we can do simulated drills during that time, during individual, and keep hammering it home."

The Bears headed inside the Walter Payton Center Wednesday afternoon to continue preparing for Sunday's matchup with the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.

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