For much of the NFL, Sunday’s game between the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans at Soldier Field is an afterthought, a clash between two lower-tier teams, each with new coaches and scrapping back to relevancy. of the. But there’s still plenty of intrigue as the Bears look to improve to 2-1 under Matt Eberfels and are determined to prove that last week’s 17-point rivalry loss to the Green Bay Packers is a milestone in their development process. There was a small speed bump. Former Bears coach Lovie Smith, meanwhile, brings his Texans to Chicago with plenty of hunger after they tied the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 and lost 16-9 to the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

As kickoff approaches, here’s our snapshot on Sunday’s game.

1. The pressing question

Can Luke Gatsey find the answers to spark the Bears’ passing att*ck?

By now, you’ll know the eye-popping numbers from last week’s loss to the Packers. The Bears attempted just 11 passes, completed seven and managed just 48 net passing yards. Through two weeks, they have an NFL-worst 153 passing yards.

Yet, as a restless mushroom in the outside world, Gatsey is measured by his diagnosis. For starters, he stressed Thursday, the Bears ran just 41 plays in Green Bay and called 19 pass plays. Three sacks resulted. A one-and-three started Fields’ scramble run. Two others were blocked due to blackness or confusion in the snap.

So fear not, Chicago, Gatsey hasn’t put his crime in a time machine back in the 1940s.

“You have to look at each opponent and say, ‘OK, this is where you have to take advantage of them. This is what you have to stay away from,'” Gatsey said. This is what I want (this crime). Whatever that means — if it throws 50 (percent), 50 runs — I don’t really care. It’s about winning. It’s about giving us the best chance to win.”

On the bright side, the Bears not only committed to their running game last week, but they had great success with it, chewing up 180 yards on 27 rushes. This is something that needs to be pushed forward and should open up opportunities in the play-action game.

The next step is to find more balance and take advantage of opportunities to make game-changing plays. For that latter quest, the Bears were sloppy with details on more than one occasion against the Packers and paid the price, failing to hit several big-play opportunities due to misroutes or poor blocking or poor awareness.

Gatsey said: “It’s part of the process. We’ve talked about it. The way we approach our walkthroughs and … practice, we have to approach it as if it’s a game situation. are so that the details feel easy when you get into the game.

The next exam will be held on Sunday.

2. Players in the spotlight

Justin Fields and Davis Mills

Sunday’s showdown between the second-year quarterbacks could boil down to which player takes better care of the ball. With two similar defenses that both preach the need for takeaways, Fields and Mills must understand how to avoid making game-changing mistakes.

Fields has an interception in each of his two starts this season and has 17 turnovers in 12 career starts. Mills has been a better defender of the football in his 13 starts with 12 turnovers, including 10 interceptions during his rookie season.

Few in the league are expecting a shootout on Sunday. The Bears and Texans are tied for 27th in the league in scoring, averaging 14.5 points each. Oddsmakers have set an over-under of 40 points.

To that end, Fields and Mills have to be conscious of ball security while finding the right space to take their chances.

Fields, in particular, may have more riding on Sunday’s game to address some Bears fans’ growing concern about his development. Through two games, the Bears are last in passing yardage with just 153 yards. Fields’ 69.2 passer rating ranks 30th among qualified starters.

In Sunday’s disappointing loss, Fields had at least one silver lining: a seven-play, 71-yard touchdown drive on the first possession that ended with his 3-yard scoring run.

“We got off to a good start last Sunday,” Fields said. “It’s just a matter of maintaining that start and playing like that for four quarters.”

3. Keep an eye on…

Ability to deal with bears.

There was a lot of chatter in Halas Hall this week about tackling fundamentals, with the Bears allowing 414 total yards, including 203 on the ground, in last week’s loss to the Packers.

The Packers, led by Aaron Jones, averaged 5.3 yards per rush and had 10 plays that gained at least 15 yards. Aberfels was frustrated with the sluggishness of his defense, pointing to numerous instances in which players took poor angles, overran the ball carrier or simply didn’t finish with sound technique.

“You have to get guys ready to get up on the runner and put their pads on them at the proper level and then wrap their feet tight,” Eberfels said. “A lot of times missed tackles are because you’re lunging and not getting on runners.”

Eberles emphasized this week that he won’t tolerate such slip-ups and believes the Bears can turn things around quickly.

“It’s something we have to get right,” Eberflis said, “and we’re working tirelessly to get it done.”

The Bears will be tested Sunday by Texas rookie Damon Pierce, who is gaining confidence from his coaching staff and stat line. Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams praised Pierce’s balance of quickness, explosion and contact.

“When he gets hit, he doesn’t stop. He keeps going,” Williams said. “He’s one we’ve got our hands full with.”

4. The return of Lovie Smith.

Throughout the offseason, in an effort to show players what his style of defense looked like at its peak, Eberfels mixed in video clips of the Bears from the 2000s and defenses led by Smith and Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown, With the help of playmakers like Lance Briggs. and Charles Tillman.

“Their unity was obvious,” cornerback Jaylon Johnson said earlier this month. “Just seeing all the leaders and all the guys that set the tone for that defense was impressive. It’s going to be an eye-opener for anybody. But we have the advantage that they were here with the Bears. They know that. Since the standard can be set, we are trying to recreate it and bring it back.”

On Sunday, the Bears will face a Smith-led Texas defense and will know what they will be up against.

Bears coaches have a lot of respect for the way Smith coaches and what he believes in, but they also don’t want him to expect a warm and fuzzy return.

Williams said: “I love that he’s a head coach in the NFL again. I’m excited for him. But at the end of the day, he’s a competitor all over the field and he’s going to come into our house and take what we have. With that in mind, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure he leaves with a frown on his face.

5. Injury report

Bears linebacker Roquan Smith and cornerback Jaylon Johnson have been ruled questionable for Sunday’s game after not practicing Friday. Smith is recovering from a hip injury he suffered during the Packers game. Johnson suffered a quad injury in practice on Thursday.

Linebacker Matt Adams (hamstring), tight end Ryan Griffin (Achilles) and safety Dan Cruickshank (hamstring) have been ruled out.

Rookie wide receiver/returner Willis Jones Jr., who missed the first two games with a hamstring injury, is doubtful to make his NFL debut.

On the offensive line, Lucas Patrick continued to take practice reps at center, perhaps on his way back to that role soon. But Patrick could be another week away from being fully ready. He split time at right guard with Tevin Jenkins in the first two games, playing 49 of the Bears’ 99 offensive snaps.

After undergoing surgery on his right thumb in late July, Patrick is working to regain strength in that hand, enough to squeeze and pull the football with ease. As soon as the Bears feel that they have cleared this obstacle, it will change their plans up front.

Predictions

Brad Biggs (1-1)

These teams are mirror images of each other in many ways. Defensively, both are from the Tony Dungy coaching tree in terms of playing cover-2. Both have second-year quarterbacks. Both have rosters that are being changed. Both scored just 29 points. Both have played poor run defense. It looks like it will be a grind-it-out ballgame. Texans quarterback Davis Mills has 15 career starts, and his home/road split is staggering. He has thrown 14 touchdowns with just one interception and is averaging 7.7 yards per attempt in eight home games. Mills has four touchdowns, nine interceptions and averages 5.2 yards per attempt in seven road starts. If Justin Fields can avoid the turnover, the Bears will improve to 2-1.

Bears 20, Texans 16

Colin Kane (1-1)

After the ugly loss to the Packers, the Bears have a prime opportunity to get some good buzz going against the mediocre Texans, who have allowed 433.5 yards but just 18 points per game. David Montgomery was impressive in Week 2 and could have another big game, but there should be a chance for Fields to make a big impact as well. The Bears defense needs to tackle better and force some turnovers to make Mills and company an easy feat.

Bears 20, Texans 14

Dean Weeder (1-1)

Thank goodness for Cairo Santos, whose late-game heroics would save the Bears from a second straight loss and quell a major urban uproar. Bears should take advantage of winnable moments whenever they arise. And it comes a ready-made one — at home against an opponent that is also in transition. Things won’t always be pretty on Sundays. But this team sees its strong commitment as its greatest strength. This will come in handy, especially during the stressful stages of the fourth trimester.

Bears 23, Texans 21

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