The Chicago Bears can put a rough week behind them with a strong performance on Sunday while not even needing to get a win.
They enter Week 3 against the hosting Kansas City Chiefs as massive underdogs, ranking 24th in scoring and 31st in points allowed. The Chiefs’ offense ranks 22nd in scoring and the defense ranks third in points allowed.
The last time these two teams met was in 2019 and the Chiefs won the matchup 26-3. Chicago could be hard-pressed to prevent a repeat performance. They are navigating injuries to multiple starters including safety Eddie Jackson who suffered a foot injury in Week 2 and left tackle Braxton Jones who joins Kyler Gordon and Teven Jenkins on injured reserve. Then there is the sudden resignation of defensive coordinator Alan Williams leaving head coach Matt Eberflus as the de facto DC.
Still, Chicago has to put forth a more complete effort on both sides of the ball. Here are four things to watch for as they work towards that end.
4 Things to Watch for When Bears Face Chiefs in Week 3
1) Chris Jones vs. Bears’ OL
Second-year Bears guard Ja’Tyre Carter should be on high alert for this one if starter Nate Davis cannot suit up after being listed as questionable on the injury report. Chiefs All-Pro lineman Chris Jones recorded 15.5 sacks last season and had 1.5 in Week 2 despite missing the entire offseason program, preseason, and Week 1.
The Chiefs line Jones up all across the front including as an EDGE rusher. That means rookie starting right tackle Darnell Wright and Jones’ fill-in, third-year man Larry Borom, will not avoid matching up with the four-time Pro Bowler.
Jones’ presence opens things up even more for the likes of Mike Danna, and Steve Spagnuolo is also one of the more blitz-happy coordinators in the NFL.
Kansas City boasts the sixth-highest blitz rate in the league through two weeks.
2) Justin Fields vs. Himself
Fields was at the center of some controversy this week when his comments regarding playing robotic and not feeling like himself were misconstrued as attacks on his coaches. But he had noted that they were “doing their job” giving him all of the information, noting that it was incumbent on him to not think about that on gamedays and instead just play.
To that end, Fields has to get the ball out quickly this week with Jones and the Chiefs pressure unit ready to attack a beat-up offensive line.
Spagnuolo’s mixed coverages won’t make things any easier.
Fields’ average time-to-throw was 3.45 seconds last season, per Pro Football Focus, including during the streak of games that saw the offense average 26.7 points per game. He is down to 3.18 seconds this season and can help himself more by being more decisive, even on runs.
#Bears QB Justin Fields addressed the media re: his press conference earlier.
He took umbrage with his quote on his hesitancy last week "could be coaching" being reduced to "coaching". pic.twitter.com/pjBbS2AJNY
— Clocker Sports (@ClockerSports) September 20, 2023
3) Bears Running Backs vs. Chiefs’ Defense
Kansas City ranked eighth against the run last season, and they rank 12th against the run so far in 2023. But they have not faced teams that are necessarily as committed to the run as the Bears can be when they stay on schedule. That has been rare for Chicago in 2023, as they rank 22nd on the ground this season after leading the NFL in 2022.
Through two games, Khalil Herbert leads the team in carries with 18, and he is tied for the lead with Fields with 62 yards on the ground.
He is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. But he also boasts a 56.3% success rate on his carries, per Pro Foot Ball Reference, leading the Bears and ranking as the seventh-best mark in the NFL.
Herbert ranks 31st in yards among all running backs with at least 16 carries.
4) Bears Defense vs. Patrick Mahomes
This is arguably the top key for this game as far as the Bears are concerned. But Patrick Mahomes having success against the opposing defense is almost a foregone conclusion at this point.
He completed nearly 70% of his passes, threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for another score in his only other meeting with the team that passed on him in the 2017 draft.
Mahomes gets to face a depleted Bears secondary.
With Elijah Hicks set to fill in for Jackson and Greg Stroman filling in for Gordon, the Bears will need to deliver on the additional pressure they were able to get last week. They went from just three hurries in the season opener versus the Green Bay Packers to 21 versus the Buccaneers. But they could sack Baker Mayfield who is not as mobile as Mahomes.