5 things to watch in the Bears' 3rd straight prime-time matchup vs. the Rams
For the third consecutive year, the Bears and the Rams square off in prime time.
Two years ago, the Bears defense smothered the Rams on Sunday Night Football in a 15-6 Bears win. Last season, the Bears offense sputtered and quarterback Mitch Trubisky wound up on the sideline with an injury in the final minutes. The Rams won that one, 17-7.
Now, Matt Nagy's Bears and Sean McVay's Rams will meet in prime time on Monday Night Football.
Here are five things to watch for in the Bears vs. Rams game:
Bears offensive line vs. Aaron Donald
The Bears' biggest question right now is on the offensive line. Can Rashaad Coward be a serviceable left guard? If he can be, is that even enough to fix the Bears problems on the line?
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald will present a major challenge. The two-time AP Defensive Player of the Year had two sacks last season against the Bears.
Donald is the centerpiece of the Rams pass rush. While they've tried to put pieces around him, Donald has twice as many QB hurries as his next closest teammate. His 7.5 sacks leads the NFL. The No. 1 most important thing for the Bears offensive line has to be slowing Donald. Make someone else beat you.
Can the Bears pass rush keep getting to the quarterback?
The Bears have seven sacks in their past two games. That's a number that defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has to like. Rams quarterback Jared Goff will make mistakes if he's pressured. The Bears need to force him into making quick decisions.
The Rams have one of the best offensive lines in pass protection. According to Pro Football Reference, Goff has been pressured on just 15.7% of his dropbacks (3rd in the NFL). One spot above them is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 15.3%. The Bears found ways to get to Tom Brady. They need to find ways to get to Goff.
Rams motion at the snap
The Rams like to send offensive players in motion before and at the snap. That deception is part of the reason why they've found so much success running the ball early in the season.
They send receiver Robert Woods in motion all the time, drawing the attention of the linebackers. They use the tactic as both a diversion or as a way to get a blocker moving with a full head of steam at the snap. It's been a surprisingly effect tactic, and one that McVay appears to have stolen after watching the Baltimore Ravens drub his Rams last season using the same tactic.
Matt Nagy vs. Sean McVay
McVay has found ways to adjust (see the note on the Rams motion above). Last year, Nagy's biggest adjustment was to put quarterback Mitch Trubisky under center more frequently and simplify the run game. The strategy was mildly successful and the Bears won four of their last six games.
But here the Bears are again struggling to run the ball. So what do they do next? They need to make some sort of adjustment, especially with a struggling offensive line and a nearly nonexistent run game. The Rams defense is good (fourth in total yards against, fourth in passing yards against, 11th in rushing yards against, sixth on third downs). They're not as tough as Tampa Bay or Indianapolis, but they present a challenge.
McVay adjusted his plan of attack after a mediocre 2019. Can Nagy find a way to do the same?
The Bears have the second-best third-down defense in the NFL. The Rams are a top-10 third-down offense. Something has to give.
The Bears will likely give up some yards, as they have in the past. When they need stops, though, they find ways to come up with stops. Teams are converting on just 31.82% of their third-down tries against the Bears. The Rams offense is converting on 46.84% of its third-down tries.
The Rams offense is below average in the red zone. Their 60.87% touchdown rate in the red zone ranks 20th in the NFL. Punching the ball into the end zone will be a tall task for this Rams offense against the No. 1 red zone defense in the league (36.36% touchdown rate against).