The Bears (0-3) will host the Broncos (0-3) Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are three things that should increase their chances of winning the game:
(1) Generate pressure on quarterback Russell Wilson.
The Bears have mustered only one sack in three games. It's no secret that they must get more from their pass rush, and Sunday would be a great time to start against Wilson. The nine-time Pro Bowler is still elusive at age 34 and can extend plays with his legs, but he's been sacked 10 times in three games.
"It's something we've got to do better," said coach Matt Eberflus. "We're going to continue sending four guys and playing some coverage. We've got to send five sometimes, send six. But, again, we've just got to do a good job. We've gotten home some and we've missed some sacks in the pocket. We have to do a better job with that, making sure we do a good job of getting the guys down when we do have pressure. But, again, that number has got to improve, for sure."
"[Sacks] come in bunches," said defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who recorded the Bears' only sack in the season opener against the Packers. "Hopefully this week we can put everything together and be able to change that. We have a lot of quarterback hits, a lot of quarterback hurries. We just have to finish and maximize on those opportunities and bring the quarterback down."
Pressuring Wilson will be even more important given that the Bears will be missing three of their top defensive backs. Nickel back Kyler Gordon (hand) is on injured reserve, while safety Eddie Jackson (foot) and cornerback Jaylon Johnson (hamstring) have been ruled out of the game with injuries.
Wilson has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 791 yards with six touchdowns, two interceptions and a 99.5 passer rating that's tied for sixth in the NFL with the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes.
"He has played really well," Eberflus said of Wilson. "His rhythm and timing of the offense has been great. He's a really good player."
(2) Produce big plays in the passing game.
The Bears entered Week 4 ranked 31st in the NFL in passing yards, averaging 148.3 per game. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy on Thursday estimated that the offense failed to capitalize on seven or eight potential explosive plays in last Sunday's loss to the Chiefs due to a lack of execution or lack of detail.
The Bears hope to make those corrections Sunday and get more production out of their passing game.
"I talked to my guys about every opportunity they get, every ball that comes their way, treat it as if it's the last ball you're going to catch," said receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. "You've got to treat it with that sense of urgency. Every ball that comes your way, in your mind you've got to say, 'This is the only ball that's coming my way today because it may be. And if it does, you've got to make that play. It has to be that heightened sense of urgency to make those plays."
Quarterback Justin Fields enters Week 4 having completed 58.0 percent of his passes for 526 yards with three TDs, four interceptions and a 67.7 passer rating. He has also rushed for a team-leading 109 yards and one TD on 24 carries.
Getsy's expectations for Fields remain the same.
"It's about him getting better each and every week and making sure he's mastering what we're doing from our perspective and being the leader of that unit," Getsy said. "He's manning up and he's taking a leadership role for these guys. It's been good to see him be able to put it on his shoulders and be the guy that wants to help make this thing get right."
The Bears were back on the practice fields at Halas Hall to continue their preparation for Sunday's Week 4 game against the Denver Broncos.
(3) Establish the run.
A productive running game is a quarterback's best friend; it keeps the defense guessing, slows down the pass rush and enables play-action fakes to be more effective. Through three weeks, the Bears rank 17th in the NFL in rushing, averaging 101.7 yards per game after leading the league last season at 177.3 yards per contest.
"We were the No. 1 rushing team last year and there's no reason that can't still be a big part of our arsenal in the game," said tight end Cole Kmet. "I think it always starts with the run and makes everything else a lot easier, so I think establishing our physicality up front is big and can help us get off to a fast start this game."
The Bears seemingly have an opportunity to move the ball on the ground against a Broncos run defense that ranks last in the NFL, yielding an average of 177.7 yards per game. In last Sunday's 70-20 loss to the Dolphins in Miami, Denver's run defense permitted 350 yards and five touchdowns on 43 carries.
The Bears need to pick up more first downs to sustain drives and give themselves more chances to run the ball. They're averaging the fifth fewest plays (57.3) and first downs (15.7) per game in the NFL.
"We'll get our rhythm when we can have 65 plays in a game," said running backs coach David Walker. "That will allow all positions to get their rhythm. We've shot ourselves in the foot a little bit with turnovers, a little bit with penalties and, to be honest, with poor execution at times.
"We can control and clean up all three of those things, and when we clean up and control all three of those things better, then we'll have much better rhythm and flow to what we're doing offensively."