The Bears will look to rebound from last week’s loss to the Giants when they host the Rams Sunday night at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) How will quarterback Mitchell Trubisky fare in his return to action after missing two games due to a right shoulder injury?
After practicing without restrictions Wednesday through Friday, Trubisky was removed from the injury report and is set to start Sunday night against the Rams. The second-year pro returns after missing two games with a right shoulder injury he sustained Nov. 18 late in a Sunday night win over the Vikings at Soldier Field.
"He put together three really good days in practice," said coach Matt Nagy. "I thought the velocity on his throws was good, his decision-making, just getting in and out of the huddle, that part was easy. The main thing was for us, seeing conditioning-wise, being able to see, can he hold up with that, and he did. He did well."
Starting the first 10 games of the season, Trubisky completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,469 yards with 20 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 97.7 passer rating that ranks 15th in the NFL. He has also rushed for 363 yards and three TDs on 51 carries.
(2) Who will win the strength-versus-strength battle that pits the Bears' dominant No. 2-ranked defense against the Rams' explosive No. 2-ranked offense?
The Bears have excelled on defense this season, especially in terms of taking the ball away and putting it in the end zone. They lead the NFL with 30 takeaways, a plus-12 turnover margin, 21 interceptions and five interception returns for touchdowns. They're also tied for second with 15 forced fumbles and five red-zone takeaways.
On Sunday night, the defense will face one of its toughest challenges of the season. The Rams own the NFL's best record (11-1), are tied for second in average points per game (34.9) and rank second in total yards per game (439.9). Quarterback Jared Goff has passed for 3,754 yards with 27 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 109.9 passer rating. "They're not throwing a lot of short passes," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "They're throwing the ball into that 15-, 25-yard range and beyond and he's a very accurate passer in those areas and he's done a great job with this offense.
Rams running back Todd Gurley leads the NFL in rushing with 1,175 yards and total touchdowns with 15. "Great player, good size, good speed, runs hard, has got great vision," Fangio said. "He does a really good job in their running game, their zone schemes of how to find the open area, hit it and get it, and he's an excellent receiver out of the backfield, too. He's a complete back."
(3) Will the Bears be able to contain Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, an NFL MVP candidate who leads the league with 16.5 sacks?
Donald presents a huge challenge for the Bears offense. The 6-1, 280-pounder is a disruptive force who has been unblockable at times this season. He has recorded all 16.5 sacks of his sacks in the last nine games after being blanked in the first three contests. Donald has registered multiple sacks in five of his last six outings, including a season-high four in a 39-10 win over the 49ers in San Francisco. He compiled six tackles-for-loss in that game, the most by any NFL player this season.
"He's a player that when you turn on the tape and you go through with your guys each week who the game-changers are, you put like three circles around him because he's a game-changer times three," Nagy said. "You look at him and wonder how he can weigh as much as he weighs and be as quick as he is. He's really extremely quick. He's savvy in regards to different types of moves that he has. He's got power. He's got the speed, the athleticism. He can do it all."
Over the last three weeks in wins over the Seahawks, Chiefs and Lions, Donald has produced 14 tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and seven tackles-for-loss. Asked what Donald and Bears star Khalil Mack have in common, Fangio said: "They're both great players. They both play tenacious, both play with a love of the game and both held out and both got rewarded handsomely."
(4) How much will the cold weather affect the Rams, who practice and play their home games in balmy Los Angeles?
The Bears struggled to adjust to the intense heat and humidity Oct. 14 in an overtime loss to the Dolphins in Miami. The difference in conditions between Los Angeles and Chicago could be just as jarring to the Rams Sunday night, when the temperature is predicted to drop into the 20s along the lakefront.
On the same day the Bears lost in Miami, the Rams played their only cold-weather game of the season in Denver, where it was 25 degrees at kickoff. Los Angeles won 23-20 as Gurley rushed for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. But Goff completed just 14 of 28 passes for 201 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and a season-low 58.8 passer rating while being sacked five times. It remains the only game this season in which he has not thrown for a touchdown.
"The cold weather will have significant effects on this game," former NFL running back Reggie Bush said this week on NFL Network. "I played in this stadium before, in this cold before, and the hits hurt a little bit more, the football feels like you're catching a brick, and for quarterbacks, it feels like they're throwing a brick. And also you have to factor in the grass you play on at Soldier Field. It's thick and you feel like you're running slower. That field is going to feel stiff as hell and guys are going to be getting up a little slower."