Who: Chicago Bears (3-5) vs. St. Louis Rams (4-4)
Where: Edward Jones Dome (FieldTurf)
When: Noon CT
Radio: WBBM 780 AM and 105.9 FM
The Bears and Rams will meet on Sunday for the 92nd time, with the Bears holding a 52-36-3 advantage. The Bears have won four of the last five meetings between the two franchises, although they lost 42-21 in the most recent matchup in 2013. The 92 meetings will tie for the most by the Bears against any team not currently in the NFC North, along with the Cardinals.
The series has spanned spanned four cities (Cleveland, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Chicago) and seven different stadiums (Cleveland Stadium, LA Memorial Coliseum, Anaheim Stadium, Busch Stadium, Trans World Dome - now the Edward Jones Dome - Wrigley Field and Soldier Field).
The two teams were Western Division foes from 1937-66, meeting twice a year during that span. When the NFL split into two conferences, with two divisions in each conference, the Rams shifted to Western Conference's Coastal Division, while the Bears were in the Conference's Central Division, ending the twice-a-year meetings.
The rivalry between the two teams has also extended into the postseason, as each franchise has claimed a conference championship against the other. The Rams beat Chicago 24-14 in 1950 for the conference championship after twice losing to the Bears in the regular season. Chicago shut out the Los Angeles Rams 24-0 in the 1985 NFC Championship game for a berth in Super Bowl XX.
The series is even when the Bears are the road team (22-22-1), while the Rams hold a slight 4-3 edge in the seven matchups in St. Louis.
Sunday's contest will be Chicago's fourth road contest in the past games. The Bears will host the Denver Broncos in Week 11.
-Bears head coach John Fox was a consultant for the Rams in 1996.
-Rams head coach Jeff Fisher was selected by the Chicago Bears in the seventh round (177th overall) of the 1981 NFL Draft. Fisher spent four seasons on the active roster (1981-84) while spending the 1985 Super Bowl season on injured reserve, assisting then-coordinator Buddy Ryan with the defense.
-Rams assistant head coach Dave McGinnis spent 10 seasons as the Bears linebackers coach (1986-95). Assistant head coach/tight ends coach Rob Boras spent six seasons (2004-09) in the same position with the Bears. Assistant defensive line coach Clyde Simmons played two seasons (1999-2000) with the Bears, recording 7.5 sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in 32 games. Defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson spent four seasons (2008-11) as a pro scout for the Bears.
-Bears quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains was a coaching administration assistant (2006-7), quality control coach (2008-9), quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator (2010-11), and offensive coordinator (2013) with the Titans while Jeff Fisher was the head coach in Tennessee (2006-10).
-McGinnis was the head coach of the Cardinals in 2000 when Bears linebackers coach Glenn Pires held the same role in Arizona.
Head Coach Comparison
|JOHN FOX||JEFF FISHER|
|122-94 (.565)||Regular Season Record (pct.)||166-151-1 (.524)|
|14th||Years as NFL head coach||21st|
|1st||Year's as team's head coach||4th|
|4-2*||Career vs. Team||2-4|
*Includes Divisional Playoff Game following 2003 season
Alshon Jeffery (groin) is listed as questionable for Sunday's contest against the St. Louis Rams.
"It hasn’t restricted my movements too much," Jeffery said this week. "I'll just keep getting treatment and just [keep] getting better. We'll see how I feel [Sunday]."
Jeffery will be a game-time decision, although he's optimistic about his chances of suiting up.
"I’m fine," he said. "I’ll be all right."
If Jeffery can't play, it will be the fifth game he's missed this year, after sitting out Weeks 2-5 due to a hamstring injury. He's coming off three straight 100-yard performances and has provided a boost to Chicago's passing attack, so obviously the Bears would be very happy if he can give it a go this week.
"I think, as a competitor, [when] guys have success, that usually breeds confidence. I think he's got a stretch of games that we'd like to continue this week in St. Louis," head coach John Fox said. "He had a good practice [Friday]. Just like all players, if they’re deemed capable of playing they play.”
The following Bears are questionable this week:
OLB Pernell McPhee (knee) DNP
C Horniss Grasu (neck) LP
RB Matt Forte (knee) LP
WR Alshon Jeffery (groin) LP
OT Jermon Bushrod (shoulder) LP
S Antrel Rolle (ankle) LP
CB Tracy Porter (hip) LP
ILB Shea McClellin (knee) LP
McPhee has not practiced all week, which is concerning, while I expect McClellin to return from his two-game absence. Matt Forte was limited the past two days but I do not expect him to play.
Out for the Bears is WR Eddie Royal (knee).
DL Mitch Unrein (illness) is probable.
For the Rams, DE Chris Long - the older brother of Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long - is doubtful with a knee injury, which is just fine with Kyle.
“Nobody wants to have any family member dealing with injury or anything," Kyle said this week. "But I wouldn’t wish playing against your sibling on anybody. It’s not any fun.”
Questonable for the Rams:
DE Robert Quinn (knee)
T Rob Havenstein (ankle)
S T.J. McDonald (foot)
The following Rams are probable:
LB Akeem Ayers (illness)
RB Todd Gurley (not injury related)
RB Chase Reynolds (thigh)
|20.3 (25th)||Points Scored||19.1 (30th)|
|347.1 (22nd)||Total Offense||312.6 (31st)|
|109.8 (16th)||Rushing Offense||135.5 (4th)|
|237.4 (21st)||Passing Offense||177.1 (32nd)|
|27.6 (27th)||Points Allowed||18.3 (6th)|
|341.9 (9th)||Total Defense||323.8 (5th)|
|121.6 (24th)||Rushing Defense||104.0 (13th)|
|220.3 (5th)||Passing Defense||219.8 (4th)|
|-1 (T-18th)||Turnover Ratio||+4 (T-7th)|
The Cutler Files
Jay Cutler is coming off his third fourth-quarter comeback victory of the season, leading the Bears to game-winning touchdown with less than four minutes to play against the Chargers. In fact, in all but two games he's finished this year, Cutler has led the offense to a fourth-quarter go-ahead score. If the defense could have maintained the leads against the Vikings and Lions, the Bears would be 5-3. So in no way is this team's record the fault of Cutler, who is playing at arguably the highest level of his career.
Again, his stats don't jump off the page, but that's fine. Cutler posted some of the best numbers of his career last season but the offense was a pathetic mess due in large part to his excessive turnovers. That hasn't been the case in 2015, as he's had just one contest all season in which he's turned the ball over more than once and he's yet to throw two interceptions in any game. Over the last four games, Cutler has thrown just two picks.
"At this point I’m just trying to get better from week to week," Cutler said this week. "That’s kind of an end-of-the-year summary, whenever we go back and look at everything of seeing where we start to where we finish. At this point, Week 1 seems like it was light years away right now. You look at the past week and right now we’re looking at the Rams, so it’s a week-to-week thing.”
Cutler is completing 62.8 percent of his passes this season, while his 89.6 QB rating is the highest of his career. He's thrown 10 touchdowns to just five interceptions, which is fewer than 19 other NFL quarterbacks. That number is skewed slightly due to Cutler missing a game and a half earlier in the year but it's a clear example of his improved accuracy and decision making.
|Cutler Career vs. Rams||2/2||48||25||326||1||1||72.0|
*Cutler did not play in the 2013 contest due to injury. Josh McCown started that game under center.
Bears on Offense
Matchups to Watch
G/C Matt Slauson vs. DT Aaron Donald
Most Bears fans are familiar with Donald, who was selected by the Rams one pick ahead of the Bears in the 2014 NFL Draft - although Donald said this week he did not visit Halas Hall leading up to the draft, so there's no guarantee the Bears would have selected him. Either way, Donald has emerged as one of the most disruptive 3-technique defensive tackles in the NFL. His 4.5 sacks are third most in the league at his position, while he's added a team-high 8 QB hits and 18 QB hurries. Matt Slauson will line up at either guard or center on Sunday - depending on the health of Hroniss Grasu, who is questionable with a neck injury - and it will be his job to make sure Donald is contained. The Bears caught a break with the injuries to Chris Long and Robert Quinn, which leaves Donald as the most important player to block on every single snap. If Slauson and the interior of Chicago's offensive line can keep Donald under wraps, life will be much easier for Cutler on passing downs.
TE Martellus Bennett vs. LB/S Mark Barron
The Rams lost LB Alec Ogletree in Week 4 with a broken ankle and called on Mark Barron to move up from safety to the second line of the defense. Barron has flourished as a linebacker due to his physical style of play, yet he still has the coverage skills of a strong safety. The Rams will surely matchup Barron on tight end Martellus Bennett, who leads the Bears with 45 receptions. With Eddie Royal out and Alshon Jeffery's status in question, the Bears will again turn to Bennett, who will surely garner the most targets for the sixth time this season. Bennett has caught a lot of passes but he's done little with them, averaging just 8.5 yards per reception and has not topped 83 yards in any single contest. Barron is a tough matchup but Bennett has to carry the passing attack this week if the offense is going to do anything against one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL.
Keys on Offense
-Matt Forte is questionable due to a knee injury and is not expected to play. That will again put rookie Jeremy Langford into the starting role. Langford had 142 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown against San Diego, yet the Rams pose a much stiffer test. Langford played well against a bad defense but his true test comes this week. If Langford proves he's defense-proof and has the same success he did on Monday night, the Bears will be able to control the clock and win the field-position battle. If not, the weight of the offense will be put on the shoulders of Cutler and a depleted receiver corps, which is far from ideal.
-I expect Alshon Jeffery to play but he'll be far less than 100 percent. In fact, don't be surprised if he's used mainly as a decoy. That should open up space down the field for WR Marquess Wilson, who had two 6-catch, 80-plus-yard performances during Jeffery's four-game absence earlier in the year. Wilson and Jeffery will face tough tests against CBs Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, who have given up just two combined touchdowns this year. Opposing quarterbacks have just a 78.2 passer rating when throwing at Jenkins and 69.9 rating when throwing at Johnson. That's impressive. If those two are able to lock up Wilson, the Bears are going to struggle on third down.
-Chris Long and Robert Quinn are arguably the best edge-rush duo in the NFL but both are unlikely to play. Yet Chicago's offense can't sleep on DE William Hayes, who has 2.0 sacks and 16 QB hurries in just three starts this year.
-If the Bears are going to run the ball successfuly, the offensive line must account for Michael Brockers, who is a beast against the run. At 6-5, 326, Brockers will wreak havoc on running downs if Chicago's interior blockers aren't up to the challenge.
Bears on Defense
Matchups to Watch
WR Tavon Austin vs. CB Kyle Fuller
Tavon Austin is one of the most explosive playmakers in the NFL. He leads the Rams with 45 receptions and 4 receiving scores, while he's second on the team with 207 rushing yards (8.3 ypc) and two more scores. WR Kenny Britt has more receiving yards (311) but he's caught more than three passes in just one game this year, leaving Austin as the only viable downfield weapon. Austin's speed and elusiveness will put a lot of stress on Chicago's secondary, particualarly Kyle Fuller, who will see a lot of Austin if Tracy Porter (hip) can't play.
OLB Willie Young vs. LT Greg Robinson
LT Greg Robinson is having a rough season, both as a run blocker and in pass protection. According to PFF, he's been the fourth worst player at his position this year. That's music to the ears of Willie Young, who should see plenty of Williams on Sunday. Young has just 1.0 sack on the season, yet he's second on the team with 13 QB hurries, despite playing only 173 snaps this year. Perenell McPhee didn't practice this week and is questionable, meaning Young will likely be on the field for nearly every defensive snap. If the team's 2014 sack leader can rekindle last year's magic, Rams QB Nick Foles is in for a long day.
Keys on Defense
-The Rams' offense is based heavily on RB Todd Gurley, who is one of the most dangerous rushers to come into the league since Adrian Peterson. Gurley is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and hasn't carried the ball less than 19 times in any of his five starts. St. Louis is going to give Gurley the ball early and often, looking to pound the ball down the throat of Chicago's 24th-ranked run defense. NT Eddie Goldman, DE Jarvis Jenkins and ILB Christian Jones, as well as the rest of the run defense, must play at a high level or Gurley, who has four 40-plus-yard runs in five starts, will make them pay. Expect the Bears to load the box with eight to nine players on running downs to try and shut down Gurley.
-In run support, Adrian Amos needs to have another strong game. The rookie has been a physical presence all season and must serve as a fifth linebacker against Gurley and the Rams' rushing attack. Also, Amos and Antrel Rolle must make sure Austin doesn't get behind them. One slip up by Chicago's back-end defenders could result in big chunks of yards for St. Louis.
-The Rams signed WR Wes Welker this week to help cure their third-down woes. On third down this year, St. Louis is 24-for-101 (23.8 percent) which is by far the worst in the NFL. Last week against the Vikings, the Rams went 2-for-16 on 3rd down, which is downright pathetic. That will be the biggest key for the Bears, making sure the Rams don't get going on 3rd down. If Chicago's defense can limit Gurley on 1st and 2nd down, and force Foles to push the ball down the field on 3rd down, they'll not only send the Rams off the field but they could end up with a couple of key turnovers.