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4 things to watch in Bears-Packers game

Justin Fields throws the ball against the Green Bay Packers.

The Bears (4-8) will try to rebound from last weekend's loss to the Cardinals and snap a five-game losing streak to the rival Packers (9-3) Sunday night in Green Bay. Here are four storylines to follow in the game:

(1) How will rookie quarterback Justin Fields fare in his return to action after missing two games with cracked ribs?

The first-round draft pick showed definitive signs of progress in impressive back-to-back starts against the 49ers and Steelers. But Fields struggled in the first half versus the Ravens and then exited the game early in the third quarter with an injury to his ribs that sidelined him the next two weeks.

The Bears are hoping that the former Ohio State standout is able to pick up where he left off before the Baltimore game. Fields became the first quarterback in Bears history with at least 175 passing yards and 100 rushing yards against the 49ers and followed by passing for a career-high 291 yards and engineering a late go-ahead touchdown drive versus the Steelers.

"I think that was a signature moment for him," coach Matt Nagy said of the late TD drive, "and that it will be as far as his confidence as he grows as a quarterback, and it was certainly for us, too, as a staff."

Bears nation hopes that Fields ultimately has a career full of signature moments against the Packers. But the task he'll face Sunday night in his first trip to Lambeau Field will be a difficult one versus a Green Bay defense that ranks fifth in the NFL in points allowed and seventh in total yards.

(2) How will the Bears defense perform against long-time nemesis Aaron Rodgers?

The three-time NFL MVP is considered one of the best quarterbacks in league history, but he's especially been a thorn in the Bears' side since replacing fellow legend Brett Favre as Green Bay's starting quarterback in 2008. Rodgers is 22-5 all-time versus Chicago, including 19-3 since 2010. In his last 14 starts against the Bears, Rodgers has passed for 36 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Asked what Rodgers does best, Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said: "Very simply put, everything. When you go up against guys that have played this long in this league and have had the success that he's had, they've pretty much seen everything. They've encountered everything. They've got answers in their arsenal for everything. He's a threat, obviously, with his arm, he's still a threat with his feet, and obviously with his mind. You've got to play the mental game with him."

This season, Rodgers has thrown for 2,878 yards with 23 TDs, four interceptions and a 105.5 passer rating that ranks fourth in the NFL. His favorite target is receiver Davante Adams, who has 80 receptions for 1,083 yards and five TDs. Said Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson: "He's a Hall of Fame quarterback. He's very accurate. Very decisive. He runs the show, and you don't see too many quarterbacks run the show how he does, and just his ability to make tough throws off his back foot, just the ability to extend plays, and then him and Adams' connection is unbelievable."

(3) How much of an impact will running back David Montgomery make?

The heart and soul of the Bears offense, Montgomery sat out the first meeting with the Packers this season due to a knee injury. But the third-year pro excelled in his two games against Green Bay in 2020, compiling 143 and 132 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 103 yards in the first contest and caught a career-high nine passes for 63 yards in the second. Montgomery is also adept at picking up blitzes, an underrated but important skill that no doubt will benefit Fields.

Another strong performance by Montgomery as a runner and receiver Sunday night would provide a major boost for an offense that continues to struggle to score points and extend drives. The Bears entered Week 14 ranked 30th in scoring (16.8 points per game) and 29th in third-down efficiency (34.2 percent).

The Packers run defense ranks eighth in the NFL, allowing an average of 102.5 yards per game. After permitting 195 yards on the ground to Washington, the unit has held its last five opponents to 74, 77, 75, 90 and 68 yards.

(4) How will the continued absence of Akiem Hicks affect the defense?

The veteran defensive tackle had expressed optimism Friday about playing Sunday night, but he was downgraded to out Saturday with an ankle injury that has forced him to miss the last three games. Hicks' absence will make it more difficult for the Bears to contain Rodgers and a running game that features a potent 1-2 punch of backs in Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon.

The Bears defense is also without outside linebacker Khalil Mack and inside linebacker Danny Trevathan, who are on injured reserve. Inside linebacker Roquan Smith exited the Bears' win over the Lions Thanksgiving Day in Detroit with a hamstring injury but did not miss a game, recording a team-leading eight tackles and one tackle-for-loss last Sunday versus the Cardinals.

With the Bears visiting the rival Packers Sunday night, senior writer Larry Mayer ranks the top 10 Bears players who have also suited up for Green Bay.

Larry Mayer

Bears Senior Writer

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