The Chicago Bears will look to avoid an 0-3 start but face a major challenge, traveling to Kansas City, Mo., for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.
The Bears not only are heavy underdogs but have had to steer through a week of turmoil with defensive coordinator Alan Williams abruptly resigning, left tackle Braxton Jones landing on injured reserve with a neck injury and Justin Fields becoming the center of so much conversation both inside the building and outside.
As Week 3 unfolds, here’s our snapshot look at Sunday’s game.
Player in the spotlight
Just about everyone in the football world has weighed in with analysis on Fields this week as everyone — including Fields — tries to determine how to get the Bears offense unlocked.
On Sunday, with a goal of trying to declutter his mind and play more freely, Fields will have to utilize his playmaking instincts as both a runner and a passer to spark the offense. But he will be tested often by a stingy Chiefs defense overseen by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
“You’ll see soon,” he said.
As early as it is in the season and as difficult as this matchup seems, this feels like another significant moment in Fields’ career.
Bears receiver DJ Moore was asked if it was just part of the job description for an NFL starting quarterback to be under such intense pressure and scrutiny.
“Yeah,” Moore said with a smile. “It is. Do you see how much they get paid? They better take all that.”
Moore had six catches last week, including three of the Bears’ five completions for at least 20 yards. He will do his part to aid Fields, as will running backs Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson, receivers Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool and tight ends Cole Kmet and Robert Tonyan.
But ultimately, it will be up to Fields to relax, stay poised and meet the game’s biggest moments. Let’s see how he responds.
How can a sputtering Bears defense limit a high-powered Chiefs offense?
The quarterback on the other side of the field isn’t so bad himself. Patrick Mahomes owns two Super Bowl rings and two MVP awards and has a legitimate chance to reach 25,000 passing yards and 200 passing touchdowns for his career this weekend. (He’s 228 yards and four touchdowns short of those milestones.)
While the Chiefs offense has struggled a bit, averaging just 18.5 points, Bears defensive players didn’t need much time studying video to be reminded of Mahomes’ brilliance.
Said cornerback Jaylon Johnson: “There ain’t nothing he can’t do. He can run. He can pass. He can throw deep. He can throw short. He can throw in the middle. He reads defenses post-snap, pre-snap. He’s that guy.”
With a star who extends plays like Mahomes and has a knack for creating explosive gains, Johnson was asked whether it’s challenging to stay disciplined in coverage for drawn-out plays.
“At the end of the day, it’s hard to cover somebody for 7 damn seconds,” he said. “When you’ve got guys running around, back and forth, you can be disciplined all you want. But you still may have somebody throwing the ball over your head.”
Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds has faced Mahomes and the Chiefs five times during his career, including twice in the postseason. Mahomes threw for 338 yards against Edmunds and the Buffalo Bills in Week 6 last season. But the Bills recorded two interceptions and three sacks in a 24-20 win at Arrowhead Stadium.
“That’s a team that executes at a high level,” Edmunds said. “You’re talking about one of the best quarterbacks that’s in this league. And obviously he is surrounded by a lot of skill players who can ball. So it’s just about executing (against them) at a high level. It’s been like that since the first time I played them. It’s still like that today. When you’re playing a team like that that has been together for so long, you have to do what you do and do it at a high level.”
Keep an eye on ...
With Braxton Jones placed on IR Wednesday with a neck issue, the Bears will likely turn first to Larry Borom to hold down the left tackle job. In his third season, Borom has made 17 starts and will need to limit his mistakes Sunday. He has been the Bears swing tackle since the 53-man roster was set, giving him ample training on both sides of the line.
“I had to take my preparation to the next level,” Borom said. “I had to do everything times two from what I did last year. Just to know both left and right.”
Borom understands how dangerous the Chiefs defensive front can be. He also acknowledged it has been an unusual week with everything that has happened inside the building.
“With any job you have, some weeks are harder than others,” Borom said. “You just have to put your best foot forward, work and push to get better.”
Hey, we know you
What a week, right? There has been so much to track and chronicle at Halas Hall that there has been very little discussion in Chicago about the Bears’ Sunday reunion with Matt Nagy. The Chiefs offensive coordinator was the Bears coach from 2018-21 and won Coach of the Year in his first season after helping the Bears to the NFC North title.
Only 10 players on the Bears’ 53-man roster played under Nagy. And Nagy said this week the Chiefs’ trip to Soldier Field during the 2022 preseason helped him cross the emotional bridge of facing his former organization.
“This is a year-and-a-half away from my time there,” Nagy said. “But being back home here (in Kansas City) with these guys and we know what we have ahead of us. … I know people in the building (at Halas Hall). I know players and a lot of support staff. That’s what real. But at the same time, you really do try to get to a point where you make it’s not about any of that. I mean that. This is about our team versus them.”
The Bears could be without starting safety Eddie Jackson on Sunday. Jackson injured his left foot in last week’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, didn’t practice all week and is listed as doubtful.
Right guard Nate Davis, meanwhile, was back at practice Friday after missing Thursday with a personal issue. But he is listed as questionable. Davis missed the Bears’ Week 2 game following the death of his mother.
“That’s a hard thing to deal with at his age,” coach Matt Eberflus said Friday. “We’ll see where it is. It’s very difficult when you grieve a loss like that.”
Bears defensive end Khalid Kareem is out after suffering a hip injury Thursday.
For the Chiefs, starting linebacker Nick Bolton (ankle) and receiver Richie James (knee) have also been declared out. Running back Isiah Pacheco (hamstring), receiver Kadarius Toney (toe) and linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (quadriceps) are all questionable.
Week 3 predictions
Brad Biggs (1-1)
The Week 3 trip is why the first two games for the Bears were so crucial. They needed to get off to a good start before tangling with Goliath. Instead, they are reeling on both sides of the ball: defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned Wednesday, and the offense will be without the projected starting left side of the line as Braxton Jones and Teven Jenkins are on injured reserve. Quarterback Justin Fields has struggled. Now they catch the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes at the wrong time (is there a good time?) as any week now their offense is going to break out in a big way. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is as creative as they come and All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones probably has his legs under him after making his season debut last week. It’s difficult to chart a path to victory for Matt Eberflus and Co.
Chiefs 35, Bears 10
Colleen Kane (1-1)
Put aside all that happened this week ― defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigning, Justin Fields’ comments about what is making his play robotic and left tackle Braxton Jones going on injured reserve. It’s still the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs against the Bears, who went 3-14 last season and have shown little progress this year despite a revamped roster. This Bears defense allowed Packers quarterback Jordan Love to throw three touchdown passes and the Baker Mayfield-led Buccaneers to put up 437 yards of offense. And now it faces Patrick Mahomes? An 0-3 start seems to be on the horizon.
Chiefs 28, Bears 20
Dan Wiederer (1-1)
Andy Reid. Patrick Mahomes. Travis Kelce. Everyone is talking about what the Chiefs’ high-octane offense might do to this vulnerable Bears defense. And with good reason. But the Chiefs defense might be playing as well as any unit in football. Justin Fields’ desire to say “F it” and play more freely might quickly be squelched by Chris Jones, George Karlaftis and Co. In two games, the Chiefs defense has allowed just 23 points and two touchdowns across 22 possessions. That sure doesn’t seem like a get-well tonic for what ails the Bears. In fact, after this turbulent week, it’s easy to see this being one of those rare NFL games that gets out of hand early.
Chiefs 34, Bears 13