Bears

Three Bears necessities to a win over the Cardinals

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Three Bears necessities to a win over the Cardinals

OK, so these Bears actually hung in there, in a game you expected to look a lot like the 2014 Bears-Packers blowouts. The light at the end of this year's tunnel suddenly seems a bit brighter with the possibilities of coaches finding ways to put their team in position to win. That should've been a given. This isn't the first rodeo for John Fox, Vic Fangio and so many others on this coaching staff. Unfortunately, I felt more confident about winning this game after last Sunday's game than I do now, after learning and watching more of how these Cardinals have a .667 win percentage since they — not the Bears - hired Bruce Arians. But here's our weekly trio of ways to potentially avoid just the second 0-2 start (via two home losses) in franchise history:

[MORE: Bears’ success creates potential 'problem' vs. good Cardinals run D]

The Carson Show

It was a hit last week at home as Carson Palmer returned from the second torn left ACL of his career. He was surprisingly active and accurate rolling out, not getting sacked once. Part of that may have been by design, since his offensive line is without starters Mike Iupati (knee) and Bobbie Massie (suspension). Here's where we find out whether there are genuine concerns about the Bears' pass rush out of their "base" 3-4. Can they find ways to get to a quarterback much less "slippery" than Aaron Rodgers last week, versus a patched-up line. But the man's found a way to win seven straight and 14 of 16 starts. Pressure up front means less pressure for a defensive backfield playing an eight-time Pro Bowler in Larry Fitzgerald and downfield speed in John Brown and Michael Floyd.

[RELATED: Complete Bears-Cardinals coverage on CSN]

Johnson & Johnson ... & Forte

With Andre Ellington down (knee), can the Bears defense contain rookie David Johnson and fading veteran Chris Johnson, forcing Palmer to become more one-dimensional? Throw in Kerwynn Williams, who was activated from the practice squad Saturday and owns one of just two 100-yard Cardinal rushing efforts over the past two years. Props to Arizona for limiting the Saints to 2.7 yards a rush. But they don't have Matt Forte. Can the Bears' offensive line dictate the ground game, as they did last week, versus a much more stout defense? If they can manage to break the 100-yard barrier and provide balance, consider it a huge step, because....

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Forget Cardinals — they're ballhawks

If Richard Sherman (whom the Bears see next week) isn't the best cornerback in the NFL, Patrick Peterson joins Darrelle Revis in the argument for No. 2. Don't be surprised if Arizona stacks the box to lock up Forte (with safety Deone Bucannon) and force Jay Cutler to throw. And who knows if Alshon Jeffery will be there to battle Peterson at less than 100 percent in attempts to keep the Cards honest? Tyrann Mathieu (think a faster Mike Brown), Rashad Johnson and Jerraud Powers complicate matters in that defensive backfield. Thirteen of Drew Brees' 30 completions last week were checkdowns to his running backs. This defense only ranked 24th last season (and amazingly, 29th versus the pass despite 18 interceptions from the DBs), yet only three of the last 17 opponents have managed more than 20 points. 

**Get ready for Sunday's noon kickoff when former Bears Lance Briggs, Jim Miller and Dan Jiggetts join Chris Boden for "Bears Pregame Live, brought to you by Meijer," at 11 a.m. on Comcast SportsNet. As soon as the first half ends, log on to CSNChicago.com for "Bears Halftime Live, brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois," as Jim and Chris recap the opening two quarters and go over second half adjustments. Then, as soon as the game goes final, flip to Comcast SportsNet Plus for "Bears Postgame Live, brought to you by Nissan," as Lance, Jim, Dan and Chris bring you 90 minutes of postgame press conferences, locker room interviews, reaction, and analysis**

 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner.