What to Watch for: Bears vs. Cardinals

 
Updated 9/22/2018 9:37 PM
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  • Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, right, is tackled by Los Angeles Rams defensive back John Johnson, bottom, and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Los Angeles.

    Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, right, is tackled by Los Angeles Rams defensive back John Johnson, bottom, and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Los Angeles.

By Bob LeGere

Pro Football Weekly

The 1-1 Bears haven't had to worry about overconfidence or complacency in a long time, but that might be one of their bigger concerns Sunday when they face the 0-2 Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz.

Coach Matt Nagy's team is coming off an exhilarating and at-times-dominating victory on Monday night over the Seahawks, while the Cardinals have been outscored 58-6 this year. The Bears proved they could respond after a devastating Week One loss; now they must show the same resiliency after a big win.

"Regardless of the record, the way I look at it is trying to stack the wins," Nagy said. "How do we respond from a loss? Well, we showed that. We came back, and we got a win. I'm learning how we're going to respond. That was that. Now, the next question is how do we respond from a win?"

Even if the Bears, who are 6.5-point favorites, defeat the Cardinals, Nagy says no one should tear a rotator cuff patting himself on the back.

"More importantly than the 2-1 (record) is going to be how do we handle ourselves?" he said. "Do we just feel satisfied now that we won? My job is to make sure that's not the case because no one in this room should be satisfied that we won. We need more. We need to be able to continue to get better as a team. The wins and losses will handle themselves. I'm just worried about stacking the wins and making sure that we don't get complacent or satisfied that we did win one game, which means nothing."

Cardinals WR1 Larry Fitzgerald has been limited this week at practice with a hamstring injury, and veteran QB Sam Bradford is off to such an awful start that fans are already calling for rookie Josh Rosen. So, even though the Arizona offense is last in the NFL in total yards, the Bears' defense must be concerned with versatile RB David Johnson.

Johnson's numbers are modest this year -- 85 yards on 22 carries for a 3.9-yard average, and 6 catches for 33 yards, a 5.5-yard average. But he led the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage in 2016 before a fractured wrist limited him to one game last year.

"You need to be aware of everything with him," Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "He obviously is a very accomplished running back when they hand it off to him. (He) runs with good balance, power (and) speed. He's elusive in there. He kind of picks his holes good. And he's a guy that can split out and line up as a wide receiver and run routes, not just be out there for decoration. They liked to get him the ball in the past -- we're anticipating some of that from them."

The Bears' offense must show it can handle the Cardinals' various blitzes if Mitch Trubisky is to progress as the franchise quarterback.

"They're really good at it," Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. "Obviously there are some other teams in our division that employ a similar package from the Double-A (gap) stuff, but they bring it, and it's impressive how well they cover out of it. You know they're bringing it, and the fans know they're bringing it, and they (still) get it done. It's all-hands-on-deck type of deal. You have to protect, you have to play in rhythm, you have to throw on time, (and) those routes have to be crisp and urgent and play cleanly."

The Cardinals are able to cover so well, even when they blitz, in large part because they have CB Patrick Peterson, who has been voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his seven seasons. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound LSU product had four punt-return touchdowns as a rookie, but fortunately for Arizona opponents, he doesn't handle those duties much anymore. He also doesn't play offense anymore, but he could.

"His ball skills are really second to none," Nagy said. "He's very athletic. He hasn't skipped a beat. He's really good at what he does. So you have to know where he's at all times. We have a lot of respect for him as a football player, not just a corner."

This article first appeared in ProFootball Weekly's subscriber-only Bears newsletter on Saturday. If you would like to signup to receive the newsletter, visit profootballweekly.com/subscribe/bears.

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