Bears coordinators spoke to the media Thursday ahead of their Sunday night matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Here is what we learned.
(1) The defense is still looking to create more turnovers.
The Bears recovered a fumble and recorded an interception in the first half against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is looking for even more against the Packers, but he doesn't want his defense to sell out in order to create turnovers.
"You keep emphasizing it," said Pagano. "You see so many people doing the 'Peanut Punch' and punching at the ball. You see a lot more missed tackles because of that because guys are going for the football, and there's times you're in the open field, and you're not going to be able to make a play, but you take a shot at the football."
The Bears currently rank 19th in the NFL in forced turnovers, despite being one of the league's stingier defenses in yards and points allowed.
Pagano singled out a play last week when Indianapolis Colts safety Julian Blackmon knocked the ball out of the hands of Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, setting up a game-winning field goal. Pagano believes that Blackmon's play was a good example of being opportunistic while still taking care of responsibilities on the play.
"You tell your guys, 'Don't press, just do your job,'" said Pagano. "'Be in the right spots. Hustle. Swarm to the football, so that when a ball gets batted up in the air or it's a tipped ball, or there's one on the ground, we're there to scoop it up and make a play.' So you just stay patient. You keep working. You gotta practice it, and we're emphasizing it at practice, we're doing it at practice. We were fortunate last time we played where we got a couple. So hopefully we can keep that trend going."
(2) The Bears haven't announced their starting quarterback but can guess how Green Bay is preparing.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor did not say whether Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky would start at quarterback on Sunday. However, the fact that Foles has not participated in any practice this week while nursing a hip injury will likely factor into the gameplan for both teams.
If Trubisky starts, he will face a divisional opponent who is very familiar with his skill set.
"I think it's pretty self-explanatory, but everyone knows what his abilities are," said Lazor, "including the team we are going against. They see the injury report. They know who has practiced and who hasn't practiced yet. So, I'm not sitting in their staff rooms with them, but I'm sure [Packers defensive coordinator Mike] Pettine is making his plans based on best guess."
A change in quarterbacks may lead the Bears to play with a gameplan that resembles the under-center, run-heavy effort of the first three games of the season.
"Some of what happened early in the year was unique to Mitch and his abilities," said Lazor, "and some of what happened early in the year as part of, strategically, how we game planned. I think we have the kind of offense that can make changes like that when necessary."
(3) The Bears used the bye week to self-scout their new play-calling arrangement.
Lazor took over play-calling responsibilities from head coach Matt Nagy in Week 10. The change did little to restart the Bears' offense, which scored six points against the Vikings, and gained its smallest number of yards in the past three seasons.
Lazor utilized the bye week to break down where things went wrong.
"I think we were able to just be real honest about some of the things that have occurred on the field," said Lazor. "Obviously, for every team, any time you go through the process of self-scouting, you find things that did not go as planned."
Lazor said that the team would be honest about the mistakes of Week 10 and work to have a better showing against the Packers.
"Sometimes you have great plans about things you want to do," said Lazor, "and the scheme doesn't work. It's disappointing, but part of the job is 'hey, let's be honest about it, and there's a lot of ways to get it done, so let's go do that.'"
(4) The coaching staff is confident that kicker Cairo Santos' consistency will continue.
The Bears have seen a number of kickers go through hot and cold streaks over the past few seasons. However, Santos has been solid in 2020, having made his last 14 field goal attempts since missing a 46-yard field goal on the opening drive of the Week 3 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.
Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor has experience with kickers suddenly losing their rhythm and is frank that regression can happen at any time.
"Not to dodge [the question]," said Tabor, "[but] there is no answer. Any player, he gets in a rhythm, he stays in that rhythm. Why does he get out of that rhythm? You have to always look at a guy's routine. Is he kicking too much? Is he not kicking enough?"
However, Tabor believes that the team's process around Santos is working and should continue against the Packers.
(5) The Bears may utilize a new punt returner against the Packers.
The Bears have seen upheaval at the position helmed by Tarik Cohen for the past three seasons. Since Cohen suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 3, the team has used three different punt returners. With Dwayne Harris out as well, the team claimed DeAndre Carter off of waivers.
Tabor has faith in Carter, who has returned 59 punts since seeing his first action in 2018.
"He's a player that has experience," said Tabor. "He's played in this league. He does a good job of catching the football. [He] has good first-step quickness and can make you miss. He's done a good job throughout his career of getting that first first-down, which, that's what we covet in the return game. So I'm glad we were able to pick him up."