On top in the NFC North and with confidence that is growing every week, the Chicago Bears head back under the lights on Monday night for another test on the road against the Los Angeles Rams.
Able to do just enough to win numerous times, the Bears (5-1) have just one victory against a team with awinning record.
In their two games against teams currently above .500, the Bears lost to the Indianapolis Colts 19-11 on Oct. 4 and defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-19 on Oct. 8.
If there is one thing the Bears are skilled at over the years, and under multiple coaching staffs, it is building a defense that can give the offense just enough wiggle room to get the job done.
That defense has allowed quarterback Nick Foles to resurrect his career yet again. Foles rallied Chicago to a 30-26 victory against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3, and he has gone 2-1 as the starter since. He guided the Bears to 23-16 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, when he completed 23 of 39 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
"I think we've made incremental changes, and it's continued to improve a little bit every week," Foles said. "I'd like to see a bigger progression this week, but you never know. The ultimate goal in this game is to win the game, it's not to put up a thousand fantasy points. It's like, whatever it takes to win a game, that's what you want to do."
The twist for the Bears, in their second prime-time game in three weeks, is that they will take on a team just as adept at defense.
While the Bears are seventh in the NFL in total defense, allowing 337.2 yards per game, the Rams are fourth on that list at 318.5 yards per game. And while Chicago gives up 19.3 points per game (seventh in the NFL), the Rams give up 19 points per game (fifth).
The Rams also have some questions to answer such as the fact that all four of their victories have come against teams in the lowly NFC East. They went to work this week to figure out why the offense was so off track in a 24-16 road defeat to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.
Los Angeles had enough mistakes on both sides of the ball to fall against an injury-riddled defense. However, what might have been the most troubling was the inability of quarterback Jared Goff to link up with his favorite target, wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Kupp was targeted nine times and made three receptions for 11 yards. But it wasn't all Goff's fault. Kupp has sure hands but dropped a quick sideline post route in the end zone on one second-half drive, and Goff threw an interception on the next play.
"We just didn't play good as a team," Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald said.
Donald leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks but had a hard time getting to 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers did use a quick-drop-and-throw strategy to protect Garoppolo, who is on the mend from a high ankle sprain. And it might be something the Bears adopt this week.
"The thing that I do genuinely believe is when you look at, 'OK, where did we fall short? Are these things we're capable of doing or are we just physically outmatched?'" Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "No, we're capable of executing and playing better football, being a cleaner operation."
The Rams reported fairly good health Thursday with only tight end Tyler Higbee (hand) and running back Darrell Henderson Jr. (thigh) missing practice.
The Bears had more issues. Among those not practicing Thursday: defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (illness), safety Sherrick McManis (hamstring) and cornerback Buster Skrine (ankle). Those limited: safety Deon Bush (hamstring) and tackle Rashaad Coward (finger).
--Field Level Media