Bears vs. Buccaneers — What to Watch 4
After getting whipped by the Colts’ defensive front last week, the Bears’ offensive line faces another tough challenge against Nadamukong Suh and the Bucs, who rank second in the NFL vs. the run.
Buccaneers defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh has not been the same dominant player since he left the Lions and became the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL with Miami in 2015, but he’s still a force and seemingly rejuvenated at 33 in his second season with the Bucs alongside nose tackle Vita Vea. Suh’s forced fumble late in the first half with the Bucs trailing 24-7 against the Chargers was a momentum-changing play in a 38-31 Bucs victory.
With Suh, Vea and William Gohlston up front, the Bucs have been a dominant run-stuffing team that ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (64.3) and yards allowed per carry (2.7).
That’ll be a particular challenge for Bears center Cody Whitehair, guards James Daniels and Germain Ifedi and a Bears’ offensive line that was manhandled by the Colts last week. The Bears came into Week 3 averaging 138 rushing yards per game (11th in the NFL) and 4.9 per carry (seventh) and were held to 28 yards on 16 carries against the Colts.
The Bears have been outscored 26-0 in the fourth quarter this season. They’re the only team in the NFL that has not scored in the third quarter and their minus-26 differential also ranks last in the league.
The Buccaneers are fourth in the NFL with 29 third-quarter points after Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes against the Chargers last week to turn a 24-14 halftime deficit into a 28-24 lead. The Chargers are 13th in third-quarter scoring differential (plus-8)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Bears quarterback Nick Foles was not sharp against the Colts in his first start last week — a disappointment after Foles had come in cold and thrown three touchdown passes to rescue the Bears against the Falcons in Week 3.
But the Colts were a huge step up in class from a defensive standpoint, so Thursday night’s game against the Buccaneers will be a good measurement for Foles. The Bucs are fourth overall in total defense, but 19th in pass defense. A good quarterback in a good offense can score enough points to win. It remains to be seen if the Bears have either.
With the short week, the Bears had virtually no practice coming off their worst game of the season. So they’ll have to recover quickly against the 3-1 Buccaneers.
The Bears are 4-0 on short weeks under Matt Nagy (coming off Monday night or playing on Thursday night). “It’s way more mental than physical,” Nagy said regarding the challenge of a short week. “We told the guys in this type of situation … [to] get their sleep, make sure they’re invested in their bodies.”
Brady is 9-0 with a 105.5 passer rating (19 touchdowns, five interceptions) on short-week Thursday night games in his career (excluding season openers) — all, obviously, with the Patriots.