The Bears host the Seattle Seahawks Monday night in their home opener at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) Will the Bears defense be able to contain Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson?
The four-time Pro Bowler possesses a strong arm and the athleticism to keep plays alive with his feet. "You've got to understand that he's really exceptional outside the pocket," said coach Matt Nagy. "He extends plays. He's one of the greatest in the league at doing that. He has a great feel for the game, understands timing, understands pocket presence."
In a 27-24 season-opening loss to the Broncos in Denver last Sunday, Wilson completed 19 of 33 passes for 297 yards with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 92.7 passer rating. He rushed for just five yards on two carries and was sacked six times in the game.
The Bears will need a relentless and disciplined pass rush Monday night from outside linebacker Khalil Mack and his teammates to contain Wilson. "He's one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league when you think about the things he's been able to accomplish throughout his whole career," Mack said. "It's going to be a hell of a challenge."
Wilson will be without his top target Monday night, with receiver Doug Baldwin ruled out of the game with an ankle injury he sustained in Seattle's Week 1 loss.
(2) Will Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the offense play like they did early against the Packers?
On the Bears' first two possessions in Green Bay, Trubisky completed 8 of 9 passes for 99 yards in leading the Bears to a touchdown and field goal. But the second-year quarterback was limited to 72 yards the rest of the game as the offense failed to pick up a first down on five of its final eight drives, enabling the Packers to erase a 20-point second-half deficit.
"Offensively, we just didn't get it done," Nagy said. "You have to work hand-in-hand with your defense. When your defense is playing as well as they were, then offensively you need to help them out and really try to put them away."
Trubisky and the Bears offense will face a shorthanded Seahawks defense Monday night. Linebackers Bobby Wagner (groin) and K.J. Wright (knee) have been ruled out of the game, while cornerback Tre Flowers (hamstring) is listed as doubtful on the injury report.
The Bears no doubt will try to establish their ground game with Jordan Howard, who rushed for 82 yards on 15 carries in Green Bay—and spread the ball around in the passing game.
(3) What will Mack do for an encore following a full week of practice?
The Bears acquired a true difference-maker via a blockbuster trade with the Raiders, and Mack certainly didn't disappoint in his debut performance in Green Bay. The three-time Pro Bowler and 2016 NFL defensive player of the year returned an interception for a touchdown, recovered a fumble he caused with a strip/sack and generated pressure that resulted in two sacks by teammates.
Mack joined the Bears after not participating in Oakland's offseason program, training camp and preseason while seeking a long-term contract extension. "Obviously, he's stepped in very well," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "I think everybody likes to overanalyze things—how much can you play a guy that's come in like that, no training camp, no nothing, hasn't played since whenever his last game was last season. But I think with special guys you throw that stuff out the window. He's a special player. He did special things under special circumstances."
The Bears are hoping for more special things from their talented pass rusher Monday night against a Seahawks offense that allowed six sacks last Sunday in Denver. In addition, Seattle is expected to be without starting guard D.J. Fluker for the second straight game due to a hamstring injury.
(4) Will the Bears perform better in the red zone?
The Bears marched 86 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown on their first possession in Green Bay, but they failed to get into the end zone again on nine subsequent drives. They settled for field goals on all three of their red-zone possessions after their first drive, failing to convert on third-and-goal from the 3, third-and-nine at the 15 and third-and-two at the 14. Conversely, the Packers scored three touchdowns and kicked one field goal.
The Bears must do a better job converting in the red zone, especially with weapons such as receiver Allen Robinson II, tight end Trey Burton and running backs Howard and Tarik Cohen. Conversely, their defense needs to keep the Seahawks out of the end zone Monday night.