Bears aim to keep Pats winless on road
The Chicago Bears offense dazzled during six of the last eight quarters.
Now quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, running back Tarik Cohen and the receiving corps need to do it four straight quarters just to keep up with the New England Patriots.
Considering their defense's plight this week, the Bears could use all the points Trubisky can manage.
"I think a lot of guys are hungry, and we're just eager for that next opportunity to prove ourselves," Trubisky said. "And not really to the outside, but just prove it to each other -- what type of team we are, just a hungry team that wants to close out games and really be a dominant force."
The Patriots are also looking for their first road win of the season. They looked bad in two road losses to Jacksonville and Detroit in September when they didn't have wide receivers Josh Gordon or Julian Edelman. Head coach Bill Belichick dismissed the idea Wednesday that the Patriots face a greater challenge than other teams because teams treat games against them as their Super Bowl.
"I don't really worry about the other teams," he said. "I worry about our team. I want to try to get our team ready to go on Sunday. That's what our goal is this week. I'm sure the Bears will be ready to go. I'm sure they'll play well. We expect them to play their best game. They probably will, and so that's what we're getting ready for."
The Bears want to leave the bad taste of losing a 21-10 lead to Miami last week in their past, but may be doing it without outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who is slowed by an ankle injury. It was bad enough to keep Mack from practicing on Wednesday, and head coach Matt Nagy called it a "day-to-day" situation.
"We're just going to continue to keep an eye on it and make sure whatever we do, we're more cautious than anything," Nagy said.
If Mack plays, the injury is likely to slow him down, as it seemed to do last game when he finished without a sack for the first time this season.
With their defense battling this problem, and up against quarterback Tom Brady and a New England offense that put 43 points up in beating Kansas City last week, Trubisky and the Bears offense will need to produce.
"No matter how they start, they always finish strong and they get better every single week throughout the year," Trubisky said of New England. "So it will be a great challenge for this team this week and we'll kind of have a good measurement of where we're at as a team and how we've grown from last year and the first bunch of games this year."
The Patriots have a reputation defensively for taking away an opponent's most reliable weapon, or go-to guy.
A defining trait of Nagy's offense, though, is not being reliant on any one player. They've functioned well when running back Jordan Howard was shut down, or when any single receiver has been blanketed.
"It's one of those things where, for our offense, a benefit for us is that we have different guys who can do different things," Nagy said. "That's a philosophy we have as an offense: When you run into situations where someone could take somebody away, then it's on your other players to step up."
The Patriots are 57-18 under Belichick on the road when they face a quarterback 25 years or younger, and Trubisky sees danger in the New England defense even if they gave up 40 to Kansas City.
"I think their scheme fits really well to keeping the quarterback in the pocket while just being disruptive and confusing at the same time," Trubisky said. "I just have got to play my game, trust our offense and not try to do too much. If I play within myself and play within this offense, I think I'll be just fine."
Bears offensive players say they're ready for this test, after amping up production the last two games. They've beaten some poor teams, some average teams, but going against a perennial AFC power would be a good measuring stick.
The ability to come up with a key touchdown to take the lead in the fourth quarter Sunday may have made a statement about their progress, even in defeat.
"We didn't do that in Week 1," tight end Trey Burton said. "And so I see growth and you see guys mature and playing at a high level. And it's fun to be a part of."
The question is whether they've matured to outscore Brady with their top defensive player less than 100 percent.
After losing leads in the fourth quarter to Green Bay and Miami, the Bears hope they've found something out about killer instinct that can help going against New England.
"I think that's something that we've got to grow into, and continue to get better and better," Trubisky said. "And we want to have that killer instinct in the second half, just to not to give the other team another chance because we did feel like we gave a couple away.
"But I think a good team will learn from that."
In addition to Mack's injury, cornerback Marcus Cooper (hamstring) missed Wednesday's practice and hasn't practiced since Week 3 and cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) practiced Wednesday on a limited basis after leaving Sunday's game with Miami due to his injury. His status for Sunday is uncertain. Bryce Callahan and rookie Kevin Toliver have played in his place. Wide receiver Allen Robinson (groin) also practiced on a limited basis due to an injury suffered against Miami and guard Eric Kush (neck) practiced on a limited basis. Despite the injury suffered against Tampa Bay, he had 31 snaps in Sunday's game as he split time with rookie James Daniels at left guard. Daniels actually had more snaps (38) than Kush for the first time.
For the Patriots, tackle Marcus Cannon suffered a concussion Sunday and did not practice Wednesday. LaAdrian Waddle will replace Cannon if he is unable to play.
Updated October 17, 2018