A week after a disappointing season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Bears will try to rebound against a Cincinnati Bengals team that is off to a 1-0 start.
Bengals second-year quarterback Joe Burrow is back after suffering a torn ACL in November, which cut short his rookie season. Burrow threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns in an overtime win over Minnesota in the season opener last week.
The Bears have not faced the Bengals since 2017, when quarterback Mitch Trubisky out-dueled Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton in a Bears victory, 33-7. Dalton was 14-for-29 in that game for 141 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Here’s what to watch for in the 2021 edition of this matchup.
1. Andy Dalton vs. his old team (and a bad defense)
Dalton will take on the team he called his own for a decade. He did so already once in 2020 (he threw for two touchdowns in a Cowboys win over the Bengals).
Reunion aside, the real interesting thing will be how much the Bears open up their offensive playbook against the Bengals. The game plan in Week 1 against the Rams was extremely limited in the passing attack. Dalton didn’t complete a pass of more than 10 yards. Even when the Bears fell behind, the plan of attack was short, quick throws.
Against a Cincinnati defense that inspires much less fear, will this offense look down field more?
2. Joe Burrow-Ja’Marr Chase connection
From the looks of Week 1, Ja’Marr Chase proved he was deserving of being the first wide receiver drafted in 2021. The fifth-overall draft pick hauled in five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. That included a 50-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter.
Burrow and Chase played together at LSU in college. Chase is already the No. 1 option for the Bengals passing attack. The Bears secondary needs to know where he is at all times.
3. Bears secondary adjustments
Speaking of that Bears secondary, it’s time to see what Sean Desai can do in terms of adjustments. The secondary was off it’s game last week and the communication was poor. The Bengals don’t have a great offense, but they do have a quality group of receivers, led by the rookie Chase.
This is what the Bears hired Desai for. It’s time to see what he can do in the face of adversity.
Marqui Christian started at the nickel last week, but he’s not a lock to keep that job. That’s a position to watch. Look for veteran safeties Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson to rebound from rough performances.
4. Bears pass rush vs. a weak offensive line
Bengals fans must’ve loved seeing Burrow back on the field, but must’ve hated seeing him run for his life out there. The Vikings sacked Burrow five times. The Bengals O-line was bad last year, and it’s unclear if the team has done enough to address the issue yet. It brought in veteran right tackle Riley Reiff in free agency via Minnesota, and the group has experience as a whole. It’s just not getting the job done.
Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and the rest of the Bears’ pass rush should be looking to rebound against a beatable opponent.
5. David Montgomery
It might not look like Dalvin Cook had a good game against Cincinnati in Week 1 (20 carries, 61 yards, one touchdown), but penalties kept moving the Vikings offense the wrong direction. Minnesota committed 12 penalties in the game, and the offensive line had a handful in the first half.
But the tape shows a Vikings offensive line that kept creating space for Cook (when it wasn’t getting off to false starts). The Bears should see an opportunity. Even with questions at tackle, the Bears’ interior found ways to create space for David Montgomery in Week 1 – and that was with Aaron Donald eating up space. It should look to do that again this week.
The Bengals don’t have anyone quite as scary as Donald.