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4 things to watch in Bears-Ravens game


The Bears (3-6) will look to snap a four-game losing streak Sunday when they host the Ravens (6-3) at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:

(1) Will rookie quarterback Justin Fields continue to ascend and show growth?

The first-round draft pick has made major strides in his last two starts and hopes to continue to show why the Bears were so eager and excited to trade up for him in the draft. Fields became the first quarterback in franchise history with at least 175 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a game against the 49ers and followed with an impressive performance in a Monday night contest versus the Steelers, passing for a career-high 291 yards and engineering a late go-ahead touchdown drive.

Fields is demonstrating the same dual-threat abilities he displayed in 2019-20 at Ohio State; he ranks fourth among NFL quarterbacks with 288 yards rushing and showed his downfield passing ability with completions of 50, 39, 28 and 25 yards in Pittsburgh.

"I've been a part of and played with some pretty good pocket passers and some pretty good mobile quarterbacks, so I've seen it for over a decade now, and he definitely has those attributes," said tight end Jimmy Graham, who has teamed with future Hall of Famers Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. "The kid's got so much talent. He's got a lot of upside, and it's fun to see the growth."

(2) Will the Bears defense be able to contain quarterback Lamar Jackson?

The electrifying Ravens star presents a difficult challenge for an injury-depleted Bears defense. With blazing speed and a strong arm, Jackson is dangerous with his legs and arm. Primarily known for his running ability when he entered the NFL with Baltimore as a first-round pick in 2018, he's since developed into an excellent passer as well.

"He's a unique and special talent and you see why he is in the MVP conversation," said defensive coordinator Sean Desai. "He's deserving of that, and his game has developed so much. They've done a great job there with him. He can beat you with his feet, he can beat you with his arm, and he's throwing the ball accurately over the top of the defenders and he's hitting a lot of underneath throws."

In his fourth NFL season, Jackson is 12-0 against NFC teams and 25-2 when facing an opponent for the first time in the regular season or playoffs. He'll face a Bears defense that will be missing outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who will undergo season-ending foot surgery next week, and tackle Akiem Hicks, who won't play due to an ankle injury.

The defense has not played up to the standard it set earlier in the season; the unit has allowed 14 touchdowns during the team's four-game losing streak after yielding only seven TDs in the previous four games. In addition, the Bears have allowed opponents to score in the last nine quarters and 14 of 15 over the last four contests.

(3) Will the Bears offense pick up where it left off against the Steelers?

After their first five possessions in the first half in Pittsburgh resulted in four punts and one interception, the Bears developed rhythm on offense in the second half, scoring two touchdowns and one field goal to turn a 20-6 deficit into a 27-26 lead.

"Everybody was on the same page, you could tell," said left guard Cody Whitehair. "Hopefully we can just carry that moving forward. We're going against a good defense this week, so we've got to give them credit, but just not beat ourselves and put ourselves in bad situations where we're third-and-long or [draw] penalties. We've just got to stay away from that and come out and play sound."

Despite the offense showing some life in Pittsburgh, there's still a lot of room for improvement. The Bears entered Week 11 tied for 29th in the NFL in scoring (16.7 points per game) and ranked 31st in total yards (309.0) while allowing a league-high 33 sacks. The offense has produced just 14 TDs in nine games this season.

Interestingly, the Bears offense and Ravens defense have similar strengths and weaknesses. Both units rank last in the NFL in passing yards and near the top of the league in rushing yards, with the Bears offense fifth and the Ravens defense fourth.

(4) How will the Bears contend with one of the NFL's top special teams units?

Before being named Ravens coach in 2008, John Harbaugh served as special teams coordinator with the Eagles from 1998-2006. So, it's no surprise that Baltimore traditionally excels in that phase of the game.

The Ravens boast the most accurate kicker in NFL history in Justin Tucker, a six-time All-Pro who has made an all-time best 90.6 percent of his field goal tries (308 of 340). He also holds the league record for the longest field goal, a 66-yarder that caromed off the cross bar and through the uprights to beat the Lions 19-17 earlier this season.

The Ravens' Devin Duvernay entered Week 11 as the NFL's leading punt returner with a 16.3-yard average on 18 returns. "This guy is really dynamic," said special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. "He's fast, he's explosive, he's tough. He pretty much checks off all the adjectives you want to talk about in a returner."

Tabor is also wary of 6-8, 300-pound Calais Campbell, a six-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman who has blocked eight kicks in 14 NFL seasons, tied for the third most since 1970. Tabor considers Campbell and Bears reserve defensive lineman Margus Hunt the league's best field-goal blockers, saying: "When they're that tall and can move like they do, they create problems."

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