Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Cowboys

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Cowboys

1. Handily win the turnover battle. 

No team has fewer interceptions than the Cowboys’ four, and Dallas hasn’t forced a turnover since playing the fumble-happy New York Giants a month ago in Week 9. Takeaways haven’t come in bunches for the Bears’ defense, but will be critically important against a Cowboys offense that’s bizarrely No. 1 in yards per play but No. 8 in scoring. 

Meaning: The Bears need to not only generate a short field or two for Mitch Trubisky and their offense, but will probably need to take the ball away from Dak Prescott and the Cowboys deep in Chicago territory. And, too, don’t throw a silly interception against a team that doesn’t get them very often. 

Do this and the Cowboys’ talent advantage is negated — as it has been for Jason Garrett’s squad in recent weeks. 

2. Don’t let your weakness get exposed on defense. 

The potential (if not likely) absence of Prince Amukamara, who’s doubtful for Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury, comes at a concerning time for the Bears. Chuck Pagano’s scheme, like Vic Fangio’s before, doesn’t have its cornerbacks travel with receivers, trusting one guy (Amukamara) to play press and another (Kyle Fuller) to thrive in off coverage. That could mean on Thursday the Cowboys are able to get star wideout Amari Cooper away from Fuller and matched up against second-year undrafted rookie Kevin Toliver II. 

Cooper already is a matchup nightmare who has 64 catches for 971 yards with seven touchdowns this year. It’s unlikely the Bears can stop Cooper, but containing him — meaning limiting his explosive plays and yards after the catch — will be critical. If Cooper gets loose, the Cowboys will have no problem marching the ball downfield against a good Bears defense. 

And even if the Bears are able to get Fuller on Cooper quite a bit, Michael Gallup is a strong No. 2 receiver, checking in with 49 catches for 796 yards this year. Toliver will need to play well and/or Pagano will need to figure out a way to consistently get him help. 

3. Give Mitch Trubisky time to throw. 

It didn’t feel like a coincidence that Trubisky’s best game of 2019 came in Detroit when his offensive line consistently gave him clean pockets and time to go through his progressions, make good decisions and step into throws. 

The Cowboys’ front is much better than Detroit’s. While edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence is having a down year by his standards (five sacks), he’s still a menacing threat who needs to be contained. Opposite him is a resurgent Robert Quinn, whose 9 1/2 sacks lead Dallas. And Michael Bennett and Maliek Collins are an effective interior duo, with seven sacks despite Bennett being a midseason acquisition from the Patriots. 

Thursday night will be a critical test for the Bears’ offensive line. Pass it and this offense will have a good chance of finding success against a solid defense. Fail it and the Bears’ already-slim playoff hopes will disappear. 

Prediction: Bears 16, Cowboys 14. The Cowboys will come to Soldier Field with a more talented roster than the Bears, but that hasn’t stopped Garrett’s side from losing some gutting close games this year. Dallas is 1-5 against teams with a .500 or better record on gameday, a surely infuriating stat for a team that, truly, should be better than 6-6. But this deep into the season, the Cowboys are who they are — and that’ll crack the door open for the Bears to eke out a narrow, tough win to improve to 7-6. 

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Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Just as Bears fans were finally coming to terms with their disappointing 8-8 season, Akiem Hicks decided to pour some salt on the wound and take to Twitter, imagining what it would’ve been like if the Bears had made it to the NFC Championship game.

While we were all imagining how indeed “lit” it would’ve been to see the Bears play in the post-season at Soldier Field, Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron decided to quote tweet Hicks with a thinking face emoji. Curious behavior.

Ebron has played for the Colts since 2018, when he had a stellar first season in Indianapolis, scoring 14 touchdowns. In 2019, Ebron’s season ended after 11 games due to an ankle injury. He scored three touchdowns, reeling in 31 catches for 375 yards. Colts GM Chris Ballad has said that the organization is likely to move on from Ebron in 2020, meaning he would be available in free agency.

Tight end is one of the positions on the Bears long offseason do to list, and Ebron seems he could be a potential fit. Judging by their Twitter interactions, Akiem Hicks and Tarik Cohen seem to think so.

Hicks replied to Ebron telling him he could hear Bears fans calling his name. Cohen echoed this sentiment in his own tweet, albeit more cryptically.

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Ranking the most painful moments for Bears' fans during the 2020 Championship weekend

Ranking the most painful moments for Bears' fans during the 2020 Championship weekend

You may have noticed that none of the four teams that played this weekend were the Chicago Bears. They haven't played since the last week of December, but since this disastrous season won't end for another two weeks, there's been plenty of time for some especially painful parting shots. And weirdly enough, there were multiple moments through the two games on Sunday that reminded Bears' fans about the 8-8 season that absolutely no one is trying to remember. Shall we go through them? OK! 

4. Jimmy Garoppolo Beat The Packers To Go To The Super Bowl With 6 Completions 

Remember when the Bears were going to trade for Jimmy G? Back before they traded up to take Trubisky, rumors were swirling that the Patriots' backup was headed to Chicago. That is what it is -- everyone's connected to everyone at one point or another, and Bears have enough potential QB scenarios to give themselves a stroke over. The real kicker was beating the Packers, and Aaron Rodgers, while attempting eight pass attempts. Remember Nagy's I'm-Not-An-Idiot comment after running the ball 7 times against New Orleans. Imagine that, but it works, and it's in the NFC title game. The Bears couldn't beat the Packers on either occasion this season, and that included 98 pass attempts. That sound you hear is someone (you can choose, really) banging their head against the wall inside of Halas Hall. 

3. Raheem Mostert Rushing For 220 Yards and Four Touchdowns 

Truly an insane night for Mostert. He was briefly on the Bears during the 2016 season, which happened to be Jordan Howard's first and best. Mostert also was on three other teams (NYJ, SF, CLE) that year, and three OTHER teams (PHI, MIA, BAL) the year before, so it's not like the Bears are the only team sitting here with yolk on their face. Still, seeing an NFL journeyman get halfway to the Bears' total rushing touchdown number (8) in one game is the stuff that existential crises are made for. 

2. Robbie Gould's Kicking Well For A Super Bowl Team

Things were all well and good when Eddy Pineiro was hitting game-winners in Denver while Gould got off to one of the worst starts of his career. As the Bears' special teams unit watched from their rented South Beach group house, Gould went 3-3, including a franchise postseason record 54-yarder, in the Niners' 37-20 win. He started the season by being crowned champion of Chicago Football Madness, and now he gets a shot at ending it with another title, even if it's not quite as illustrious as the midwest's premier Bears-only online bracket challenge. 

1. Literally Everything Pat Mahomes Did All Day 

The decision to trade up for Trubisky was bad, but honestly, the endless stream of barely-distinguishable versions of the same snarky tweet may be worse. At some point Bears fans are going to have to come to terms with Pat Mahomes playing for the Chiefs, but it sure as hell won't be this year. In their defense, everything he does makes you physically stop whatever else you're doing and figure out what noise just came out of your mouth. Bears fans are robbing themselves of the best Mahomsian experience by insisting on slamming the Caps Lock button anytime the Chiefs play, but with each new height that Mahomes and the Chiefs reach, it becomes harder and harder to blame them.

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