5 things to watch in the Chicago Bears-Arizona Cardinals game — plus our Week 16 predictions – Boston Herald

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The Chicago Bears (5-9) look to rebound from yet another fourth-quarter collapse and loss when they host the Arizona Cardinals (3-11) on Sunday at Soldier Field (3:25 p.m., Fox-32).

As kickoff approaches, here’s our snapshot look at the game.

Players in the spotlight

Bears running backs

In the aftermath of a 20-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Bears coach Matt Eberflus pointed to the run game as one reason the offense managed just 10 points. The Bears rushed for 88 yards, their third-worst output this season.

Now the Bears, led by running backs Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman and Roschon Johnson, face the Cardinals, whose 31st-ranked rushing defense gives up 139.6 rushing yards per game.

Eberflus put the onus on an offensive line that will be without left guard Teven Jenkins (concussion), saying “you’ve got to be able to move people at the line of scrimmage.”

Herbert and Foreman have been hobbled by injuries this season, and Foreman is listed as questionable because of a personal issue. Herbert missed five games midseason while on injured reserve with an ankle injury and has not had the same production since he returned. But Eberflus said he has seen Herbert’s burst return in practice.

“We’re excited to see it in the game, and so is he,” Eberflus said. “He’s been working hard at it. The scheme is good this week. We’ve got some good plays in there for him and the other guys to get the ball on the perimeter as well as inside.”

If the Bears can bounce back in the run game, that should also help quarterback Justin Fields rebound against a Cardinals defense that doesn’t rank particularly well in any facet.

Eberflus said coach Jonathan Gannon, who worked under him with the Indianapolis Colts, helps direct a defense that does a good job with their disguises.

“They do a lot of the sim pressures, have that five-DB shell at the back end of the defense,” Fields said. “They hold their shell for as long as possible, give you some messed-up looks, so it’s going to be important for the guys to confirm coverage post-snap.

Pressing question

Will the Bears still play hungry with their playoff hopes all but over?

Bears safety Eddie Jackson said it has been a while since he had an emotional reaction quite like the one he had after the game against the Browns, who trailed by 10 points early in the fourth quarter.

“I feel like everyone was sick,” Jackson said. “I haven’t cried from a loss in I don’t know how long. That one brought tears to my eyes, so it really cut deep.”

The Bears collapsed twice before in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions — and won games the week after those losses. But Jackson said the latest was so crushing because the players harbored playoff hopes, with an easier schedule down the stretch after the Browns.

“We knew what we were fighting for,” Jackson said. “We knew we had it. And to go out and lose it like that. It was like, ‘Oh, man, it happened again.’ ”

The Bears’ chances of making the playoffs are now minuscule, so that begs the question of whether the team can maintain its focus without the carrot of the postseason.

“I don’t think it’s hard at all, I mean, if you take pride in winning,” cornerback Jaylon Johnson said. “Just knowing the guys that we have, it’s not hard to bounce back. It’s not hard to continue to fight adversity. That’s what the game is about.”

Keep an eye on …

Kyler Murray’s ability to extend plays

In five games since returning from a December 2022 ACL tear, Murray has completed 105 of 169 passes (62.1%) for 1,075 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions with 14 sacks. He has rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns.

Jackson said Murray is still “very, very mobile” after the injury, and Bears defenders worked on the scramble drill during the week as they plan to stop him from extending plays.

“They keep him moving, especially when the pocket falls, he has these holes he can escape through,” Jackson said. “He likes to attack the edges when it’s time for him to get out of that pocket. He’s fast and he’s elusive, and he’s a smaller guy. So you’re not on top of him, you have to have the right tackle angles to get him on the ground. But he definitely makes things happen with his feet.”

A Bears defense that has become top six in the NFL in takeaways with 23 looks to continue its surge. But Murray presents a new challenge, not only for Bears players but for coaches.

“We’ve got to be able to keep him in the well or in the chute there,” Eberflus said. “That’s difficult to do. He’s very athletic. He’s very quick, and you have to have a plan for him for sure. You have various ways of doing that. You rush four, you have a guy looking for him. You might have two guys looking for him. You game up your rush to move him a certain way and have somebody waiting for him.”

‘Mad as hell’

Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney hasn’t stayed away from social media this week despite the firestorm of commentary on his Hail Mary drop against the Browns.

His friends have sent him things about the game, which ended when the winning Hail Mary touchdown pass bounced out of Mooney’s grasp after he fell to the ground in the end zone.

“That stuff doesn’t bother me,” Mooney said. “At the end of the day, like I said, I tried to catch the ball. I’m falling. I got pushed out of the pile. If I would have caught it, it definitely would have been a good thing. We still have some things to work on at the end of the game besides the Hail Mary. I’m not holding on to it.”

Don’t mistake those comments for Mooney not caring that his season hasn’t been up to par.

In a contract year, Mooney has just 29 catches for 409 yards and a touchdown — with just two catches on eight targets for 14 yards against the Browns.

“There have been some pissed-off moments for sure,” Mooney said. “I’ve been mad as hell. I’m human. I expect a lot more out of myself. I expect to have a stellar season. I expect to be a playmaker on my team. That has not been the case this year. I believe in myself. My guys believe in me as well. … I’m going to keep working, and we’ll see where the chips fall.”

Injury report

Along with Jenkins, the Bears declared out wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (pectoral) and linebacker Noah Sewell (knee).

Tight end Cole Kmet was limited in practice Thursday and Friday with a quad issue and is questionable, but Eberflus said Kmet is trending in the right direction. Along with Foreman, running back Travis Homer (hamstring) is also questionable.

For the Cardinals, top wide receiver Marquise Brown (heel) and cornerbacks Garrett Williams (knee) and Bobby Price (quad) are out.

Safety Andre Chachere (shoulder), linebacker Victor Dimukeje (foot), wide receiver Greg Dortch (shoulder) and cornerback Antonio Hamilton (calf) are questionable.

Predictions

Brad Biggs (10-4)

The Bears would have been OK last week had they not run into one of the better defenses in the league, maybe the best they will face all season. The Cardinals are in the early stages of what will be a long rebuild. They rank 31st against the run and have had a rough go defending the pass as well, with opposing quarterbacks combining for a 103.8 passer rating, also 31st. While the metric isn’t perfect, there’s a large sample size entering Week 16, and the Cardinals are the eighth opponent the Bears will face who rank in the bottom 10 in passer rating. Add it up and the Bears will have 11 games against teams currently in the bottom 10. They should be able to produce on offense.

Bears 28, Cardinals 13

Colleen Kane (9-5)

Because the coach-quarterback conversation feels as complicated as it can get, the Bears probably will win the next two, making it even more unclear just how team brass should proceed this offseason. But I’m not picking the Bears because I’m rooting for social media chaos. I’m picking them in part because it felt like a genuinely normal locker room this week despite the crushing loss to the Browns. The Bears have bounced back from such collapses before this season to beat bad teams — topping the Commanders after the Broncos loss and then beating the Vikings after the Lions collapse. I think they will do it again, with Justin Fields and the offense looking quite a bit better against a defense that is nowhere near what they faced in the Browns. And the Bears defense should have another opportunity to continue its takeaway parade. Merry Christmas, Bears fans.

Bears 27, Cardinals 20

Dan Wiederer (9-5)

Give this Bears team credit. Even the most dispiriting of losses don’t seem to linger. And this team has again had a positive week resetting emotionally after Sunday’s collapse in Cleveland. The Bears also return home to face an inferior opponent with a vulnerable defense. It sets up to be a stress-free afternoon and a potential wire-to-wire victory. Happy holidays, Chicago!

Bears 26, Cardinals 16

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