The Bears (2-2) will look to win their second straight game Sunday when they visit the Raiders (3-1) at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Here are four storylines to monitor in the contest:
(1) Will newly-minted starting quarterback Justin Fields and the Bears offense pick up where they left off last Sunday against the Lions?
After failing to score a touchdown in a disappointing Week 3 loss in Cleveland, Fields and his teammates showed resiliency and poise versus Detroit. The offense scored three touchdowns in a 24-14 win, matching its total output from the first three games of the season.
The challenge now for the unit is to continue to be efficient and grow as Fields develops and gains experience. One key Sunday against the Raiders and beyond will be the play of the offensive line, which showed dramatic improvement from the loss to the Browns to the win over the Lions. The Bears will need another strong outing from the line in Las Vegas.
"I just love … their mentality," said coach Matt Nagy. "They don't ever get too high or low. They don't want a lot of credit, and I think it's a reflection of [coaches] Juan [Castillo] and Donnie [Raiola] and then those players in general. They just care about the team. They know that they're a big part of our success, whether it's running the ball or in pass protection. They're also leaders, too. And I think it's been great for [left tackle] Jason Peters to get in here as a big-time vet and really help tie everything together."
(2) Will the Bears defense be able to contain an explosive Raiders offense?
Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr entered Week 5 leading the NFL with 1,199 passing yards, an average of 300 yards per game. The eighth-year pro has thrown for eight touchdowns and three interceptions while posting a 98.1 passer rating. Carr has especially excelled on third-down plays, leading the league with a 73.0 completion percentage and a 139.4 passer rating.
"I think he's playing at the highest level I've seen him play," said Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai. "He can throw the rock, he can avoid, he can scramble to pass and he has his eyes up the field, and they have targets they can hit at all levels of the field and he can make all those throws."
Carr has the luxury of passing to one of the NFL's best tight ends (Darren Waller), slot receivers (Hunter Renfrow) and speedy deep threats (Henry Ruggs). Waller was voted to the Pro Bowl last season after catching 107 passes for 1196 yards and nine touchdowns. Ruggs leads the Raiders with 297 receiving yards and is averaging 21.2 yards per catch.
The Bears entered Week 5 leading the NFL with 15 sacks. They've done an excellent job so far this season of generating pressure on the quarterback without having to blitz, something they hope to continue Sunday.
(3) How will the Bears make up for the loss of running back David Montgomery?
The Bears bolstered their backfield during the offseason by signing free agent Damien Williams and selecting Khalil Herbert in the sixth round of the draft out of Virginia Tech. The veteran and the rookie are both expected to help fill the void created by the absence of the injured Montgomery. The NFL's fifth leading rusher was placed on injured reserve Saturday due to a sprained knee he sustained early in the fourth quarter of last weekend's win over the Lions and will miss a minimum of three games.
Before opting out last season due to COVID-19 concerns, Williams played six NFL seasons with the Dolphins and Chiefs and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in Kansas City's Super Bowl LIV win over the 49ers.
"He played on a big-time stage and made some big-time plays," Nagy said. "The players know that; the coaches know that. So, there's a sense of calm knowing that in this type of situation he can step in."
Nagy acknowledged that with Williams moving into the starting position, Herbert likely will fill Williams' regular role as the No. 2 back. The Bears coach is confident that the rookie will be up for the challenge.
"The nice thing is that for Khalil this isn't something that he hasn't been out there with the starters," Nagy said. "On kickoffs, he's had some contact and he gets reps in practice. It's different when the lights hit, but it goes into that trust factor. He's somebody that's played in front of a lot of people at Virginia Tech as well, so I think he's pretty mature."
(4) How will the Bears offense contend with the crowd noise?
The Bears have played in loud, hostile environments twice this season in Los Angeles and Cleveland, but it figures to be even louder in the fully-enclosed Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Communication will be key, especially between Fields and the offensive line.
"I've had some college teammates that have played there so far," said center Sam Mustipher, a Notre Dame product. "The right tackle for the Dolphins (Liam Eichenberg), I talked to him on Monday and he said it's loud in there."
Fields, of course, played in loud road stadiums during his career at Ohio State. Asked how much raucous fans could impact a rookie quarterback Sunday, Mustipher said: "He had the experience in Cleveland. The 'Dawg Pound' is loud as well. We are going to see what it's like this weekend. All I've heard is that it's going to be super loud in there. We are working on it during the week as best we can, so hopefully we will be prepared for it."