The Chicago Bears look to bounce back from last week’s ugly loss in Green Bay, but they’ll have their hands full with Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams. With Matt Forte out of commission, Jay Cutler will need to be at the top of his game to keep up with Bradford and the Rams’ passing attack.
Here’s a look at the crucial factors that will determine whether Chicago can come away with a much-needed home win.
Live Stream: DirecTV.com (paid)
1. How will Michael Bush fare in the passing game?
Bush has already shown that he’s a perfectly solid runner, and while he doesn’t have Forte’s big-play ability, he’s a more powerful back who will wear down the Rams’ defensive line. The bigger concern, though, is whether he’s ready to protect Jay Cutler as a pass blocker.
Bush doesn’t see much action on passing downs because he’s neither a great pass blocker nor a dangerous receiver. He’ll need to come through in at least the former area, if not the latter, to keep the Chicago aerial attack functioning.
2. Can Chicago’s defense keep Sam Bradford off-balance?
The major difference between the Rams losing their opener and winning last week over the Redskins was the performance of quarterback Sam Bradford. When Bradford went from 198 passing yards and one touchdown to 310 yards and three scores, the Rams got into the win column.
One of the keys to Bradford’s turnaround was that the Rams kept him upright, allowing four sacks in Week 1 but just two against the Redskins. The Bears must keep Bradford from getting comfortable in the pocket, because if he has time to go through his progressions, he’ll pick them apart.
3. Will the Rams’ pass rush finally show up?
Through two weeks, St. Louis has totaled just two sacks (both by second-year man Robert Quinn). That figure leaves them tied for 27th in the NFL, and it’s going to hand them another loss in Week 3 unless they can turn things around.
The Ram secondary—led by Cortland Finnegan—isn’t a liability, but it’s also not equipped to stop a quarterback as prolific as Jay Cutler without some help. The Bears have provided more than enough evidence that they can’t stop a decent pass rush, so the Rams can either find a decent pass rush or they can watch Cutler throw for 300+ yards and a couple of touchdowns.
Prediction: Bears 27, Rams 24
Neither of St. Louis’ first two opponents had a running back worth worrying about, either, but the Rams’ D still struggled to contain the passing game. That trend won’t change at Soldier Field, and Cutler will put up just enough offense to keep the Bears on top.