The Bears will look to improve their home record to 3-0 when they host the New England Patriots Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) How will the Bears defense fare against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady?
he living legend continues to play at an elite level at the age of 41, leading an explosive offense that features receivers Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, tight end Rob Gronkowski and running backs Sony Michel and James White. The Patriots arrive at Soldier Field on a roll, having scored 38, 38 and 43 points in winning their last three games.
Brady is 4-0 all-time against the Bears, having completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 1,318 yards with 11 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 109.4 passer rating and five sacks. He has a higher career passer rating against only two teams: the Falcons (116.7) and Steelers (111.8).
"It's definitely a big challenge going up against an elite quarterback like that that's been in the league a long time," said outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. "You've just got to go out and execute at a high level because you already know he's going to execute, so you've got to do the same."
This season Brady has passed for 1,599 yards with 13 TDs, six interceptions and a 98.2 passer rating that ranks 12th in the NFL. He has greatly benefitted from the recent return of Edelman, who was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing drugs. In two games back, Edelman has caught 11 passes for 111 yards and 1 TD.
(2) Will Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the offense stay red hot?
The offense has started to click, generating 10 touchdowns in its last two games after mustering only four TDs in its first three contests. Trubisky has ignited the unit, producing 770 yards of total offense in the last two games against the Buccaneers and Dolphins. The second-year quarterback has completed 41 of 57 passes for 670 yards with nine TDs and one interception and also rushed for 100 yards on 11 carries in those two contests.
Last Sunday in Miami, the offense struggled in the first half before exploding in the second. Trailing 7-0 at halftime, the Bears generated touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half to take a 21-10 lead. They scored on a pair of three-play, 75-yard drives in an elapsed 1:37 and 1:00, sandwiched around a 1-play, 12-yard possession that followed Kyle Fuller's second interception.
Nine of the 10 plays the Bears produced of 15-or-more yards in the game came in the second half or overtime. They included Trubisky passes of 54 yards to Taylor Gabriel and 50 yards to Tarik Cohen. Trubisky completed 13 of 17 passes for 227 yards with three TDs, one interception and a 133.0 passer rating in the second half and overtime.
The Bears offense will need a quicker start Sunday against Brady and the Patriots.
(3) Will Khalil Mack play, and if he does, how effective will he be?
The All-Pro pass rusher sustained an ankle injury early in last Sunday's game against the Dolphins, but he played through it and finished the contest. Mack was not as effective, however, as he had been in previous weeks, failing to record a sack or quarterback hit. As a team, the Bears were held without a sack by the Dolphins after registering 4. 6, 4 and 4 in their first four games to lead the NFL.
Mack has not missed an NFL game since being selected by the Raiders with the fifth pick in the 2014 draft, playing in all 69 contests. He returned to practice Friday on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday and is listed as questionable on the injury report. The Bears may wait until 46-man active rosters are due 90 minutes before kickoff to decide whether Mack will suit up.
With Mack likely not at 100 percent if he does in fact play, other Bears defenders such as Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Akiem Hicks, Roy Robertson-Harris, Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith will have to pick up the slack with the pass rush. The last thing the Bears want is to give Brady time to throw in the pocket. Consistent pressure on Brady could be the difference in the game.
(4) Will the Bears respond to adversity and rebound from a difficult loss?
The Bears bounced back from a tough Week 1 road loss to the Packers by beating the Seahawks at Soldier Field. They're hoping for a repeat performance Sunday after dropping a winnable game in overtime to the Dolphins last weekend in Miami.
"I hope it's an aberration, but we'll discuss it and we make everybody accountable, we all do," said coach Matt Nagy. "For our team and our players, we like to pump them up and show them the good stuff, but we'll also show them the bad stuff, you know, why did this happen, and use it as motivation."
The Bears must eliminate the mistakes that plagued them in Miami, starting with two costly red-zone turnovers—a Jordan Howard fumble inside the 1 and a Trubisky interception in the end zone. The pick came one snap after Cohen's apparent 3-yard TD reception from Trubisky was nullified by a questionable offensive pass interference penalty on tight end Trey Burton.
In addition to the missed tackles and lack of a pass rush, the defense also allowed 161 yards rushing, with Frank Gore (101 yards on 15 carries) becoming only the second player to top 100 yards on the ground against the Bears in their last 23 games.