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Key Matchups

Week 2 Key Matchups: Bears at Broncos


When the Bears travel to Denver to take on the Broncos Sunday, keep an eye on these matchups:

Bears offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. vs. Broncos linebacker Von Miller

Pass rush very well could be the story of this game.

For the Bears to win on Sunday, the offense must play better. For the offense to play better, the offensive line must protect the quarterback. For that to happen, Leno will need to neutralize Miller.

The Bears gave up five sacks against the Packers last week, and they're facing one of the top pass rushers in the league in Miller this week. Much of the offense's ability to improve will depend on Leno's ability to hold the edge against Miller and, to a lesser extent, Bradley Chubb.

Leno might have an advantage; he happens to go against one of the other best pass rushers in the league every practice, Khalil Mack.

"I'm not saying I got a handle," said Leno. "I've still got to go out there and do my job and perform. But going against those guys (Mack and Leonard Floyd) in practice every day. I mean, how much more difficult is it going to get?"

Leno said that Miller and Mack are cut from the same cloth, with the main difference being that Miller relies on his speed a bit more than Mack, who tends to be a bit more physical.

The Raiders held the vaunted Broncos pass rush sackless on Monday night. If the Bears can do the same, it may have serious implications for both teams going forward.

Bears linebacker Khalil Mack vs. Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles

Again, pass rush likely will be the story of the game.

Mack is the central force in the Bears' defense. He did not record a sack last week, but he still applied plenty of pressure. Floyd credited one of his sacks to Mack, and there wasn't much to complain about on the defensive end. The Broncos will start Joe Flacco at quarterback, and the 12-year veteran was efficient in the opener.

Mack will have the opportunity to wreak havoc on Sunday. The Broncos' starting right tackle, Ju'Wuan James, went down in the opener with a sprained knee, so backup Elijah Wilkinson will likely start. 

On the other side of the line, Mack will face Bolles, the Broncos first-round pick in 2017. Bolles starts at left tackle. He's long, big and athletic. He performed well against the Raiders when he neither allowed a sack nor got called for a penalty, both areas where improvement was needed. He even earned measured praise from Broncos coach Vic Fangio.

"I think Garett's done well since we've been here," said Fangio. "I think he's still a work in progress like we said, but I think the future's very bright for him."

Stopping Mack would be a big deal for Bolles, but it's hard to imagine Mack going into Week 3 without any sacks on the season.

Bears receiver Allen Robinson II vs. Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, Jr.

Robinson was the Bears' best weapon against the Packers, catching seven passes for 102 yards. The coaching staff has made little secret that Robinson will be the top target for much of the year.

Harris has been the Broncos' top cornerback for most of the past six seasons. He's gone to four Pro Bowls. The Bears anticipate that Robinson might even draw double coverage in Denver, but that would likely open up other opportunities for the offense to spread the ball around.

"You scheme up a route for A-Rob for example, and they might double him," said offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, "or they might rotate in a way that takes him out of it. And that's where as a quarterback, you just have to move on to the next guy and trust your feet and trust your eyes, trust the concept. You've gotta protect it, long enough to do that. That's where it takes everybody on the field to be the hero."

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