JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Bears (3-1) will look to win their third straight game and at least maintain a share of first place in the NFC North today when they battle the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) at EverBank Field.
Quarterback Jay Cutler hopes to pick up where he left off in Monday night's 34-18 win in Dallas, when he completed 18 of 24 passes for 275 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 140.1 passer rating that was the third best of his seven-year NFL career.
Hester will be playing in his home state today for just the third time in his seven-year NFL career. On his first pro play in the Sunshine State, he returned the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI 92 yards for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts.
While Mike Tice was pleased with Cutler, his receivers and the pass protection in Dallas, the Bears offensive coordinator wants to see more production from the ground game, especially on first down. The Bears rank 28th in the NFL with an average of 3.4 yards per rush and remain last in the league with an average gain of only 4.0 yards on all first-down plays.
Running back Matt Forte tweaked his sore ankle on his first carry against the Cowboys but returned to the game, rushing for 52 yards on 13 carries.
The Bears will face a Jaguars defense that ranks 26th in the NFL in total yards, 30th against the run and 20th versus the pass. Jacksonville is allowing an average of 404.8 yards per game and has recorded only two interceptions and two sacks in four contests this season.
The Bears defense has been much more productive, leading the NFL with 11 interceptions and ranking third with 15 sacks. In its last two games, the unit has returned three interceptions for touchdowns while allowing opponents to score only two TDs.
The Bears defense delivered its most impressive performance of the season in Dallas, intercepting five Tony Romo passes and returning two of them for touchdowns.
Cornerback Tim Jennings was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month after establishing a career high with four interceptions while also recording 18 tackles and six pass breakups, two of which resulted in interceptions by Bears teammates.
The Bears defense has also excelled against the run, allowing the third fewest rushing yards per game (67.3). They'll be challenged today by Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, a 5-7, 208-pounder who topped the NFL in rushing last season with a franchise-record 1,606 yards.
A short but exceptionally strong runner with a low center of gravity, Jones-Drew ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing this season with 352 yards and 1 TD on 72 attempts.
Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert has completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 654 yards with five touchdowns, one interception and an 83.7 passer rating this season.
The Bears enter today's game in a tie with the surprising Vikings (3-1) atop the NFC North, ahead of the Packers (2-2) and Lions (1-3). Minnesota hosts the Titans and Green Bay visits Indianapolis today, while Detroit has a bye this week.