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Bears vs. Rams: What to Watch 4

Rams DT Aaron Donald is a formidable challenge, but this is where a run game, solid play-calling and Nick Foles’ ability to get rid of the ball quickly help a struggling line neutralize a mismatch.

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) celebrates a sack against the Bears last season at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Donald had three sacks in the Rams’ 17-7 victory — one was nullified by a penalty. The other two came against back-up Bears quarterback Chase Daniel.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) celebrates a sack against the Bears last season at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Donald had three sacks in the Rams’ 17-7 victory — one was nullified by a penalty. The other two came against back-up Bears quarterback Chase Daniel.
Mark J. Terrill/AP

Key matchup

The specter of Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald against the Bears’ offensive line is more daunting than ever. The Bears contained Donald in 2018, but he made a bigger impact in the Rams’ 17-7 victory last year — though both of his sacks came after Chase Daniel replaced Mitch Trubisky, and one came when he ran Daniels out of bounds.

This year, Donald is still the best defensive player in the NFL, with 7-1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles, 14 quarterback hits, 36 pressures and six tackles for loss. And the Bears’ offensive line is particularly vulnerable, especially after losing guard James Daniels to a season-ending torn pectoral muscle.

The interior of the line — right guard Germain Ifedi, center Cody Whitehair and left guard Rashaad Coward — will have to take their collective game to another level to neutralize Donald. And with Donald’s versatility, tackles Bobby Massie and Charles Leno also figure to be on alert.

It’s a formidable challenge, but this is where a run game, solid play-calling and Nick Foles’ ability to get rid of the ball quickly when in danger can help a struggling offensive line neutralize a mismatch.

Trending

Rams quarterback Jared Goff has recovered from a year of regression in 2019 that followed the team’s Super Bowl season — he’s 11th in the NFL with a 101.4 passer rating. Goff had four consecutive 100-plus passer ratings (eight touchdowns, two interceptions) before a sloppy offensive performance against the 49ers last week (a 72.0 rating — 19-for-38, 198 yards, two touchdowns, one interception).

Goff has struggled in both games against the Bears — no touchdowns and five interceptions. In 2018, he was intercepted four times and had a career-low 19.1 passer rating. Last year, he was 11-for-18 for 173 yards and one interception, though Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks did not play.

Player to watch

Bears quarterback Foles will make his fourth consecutive start since replacing Trubisky — still too early to judge the switch a success or failure. But eventually, Foles will have to produce more tangible evidence that progress is being made. He went 23-for-39 (59%) for 198 yards and an interception against the Panthers.

“I think every week we’ve made little incremental changes and we’re progressing. I’d like to see a bigger progression this week,” Foles said. “But you never know. The ultimate goal is to win the game. It’s not to put up a thousand fantasy points and do that, it’s whatever it takes to win a game.”

X-factor

The impact of left guard Daniels’ season-ending torn pectoral injury is being determined. Coward struggled with assignments, communication and execution against the Panthers.

The Bears are counting on him improving in his second start in place of Daniels. If he doesn’t, it likely will not be pretty.