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Bears defense faces huge challenge in corralling ‘explosive’ Rams RB Todd Gurley

After Giants rookie Saquon Barkley gashed them for 125 yards on 24 carries last week, the Bears face an even bigger run-pass threat in Rams running back Todd Gurley on Sunday night at Soldier Field.

Gurley, 24, leads the NFL with 1,175 rushing yards (5.0 average) and 15 rushing touchdowns. He also has 46 receptions for 474 yards and four touchdowns. So he’s on a pace for 2,199 yards from scrimmage and 25 touchdowns. Gurley had 132 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries (5.7 average) in a 30-16 victory against the Lions last week to earn NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

The Bears are second in the NFL in rushing defense but are coming off a disappointing performance against Barkley. He gained 21 yards on his first six carries but 104 on his last 18. Until then, the Dolphins’ Frank Gore had been the only back to gain 100 or more yards against the Bears — he had 101 on 15 carries in a Week 6 overtime victory against the Bears.

The 6-1, 224-pound Gurley figures to be even tougher to handle in the Rams’ high-octane offense that ranks second in total yards. The Rams are fourth in rushing yards and passing yards — the only team in the NFL in the top 10 in both categories.

Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) has gained 1,649 yards from scrimmage and scored 19 TDs so far this season. Only six players have topped those marks in the first 12 games. | Rey Del Rio/AP photo

Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) has gained 1,649 yards from scrimmage and scored 19 TDs so far this season. Only six players have topped those marks in the first 12 games. | Rey Del Rio/AP photo

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“Gurley is such a big man . . . very explosive,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s hard to bring him down with one man. He’s got great hands. He understands the pass game. They use him well — whether it’s protection and then get out in the flat. He can run routes in empty formations. He does it all.”

Injury report

The Bears had all their starters available for practice Wednesday. Reserve running back Benny Cunningham (ankle) and special-teams ace Sherrick McManis (hamstring) were limited. Safety Deon Bush (hamstring) did not practice.

Home-field advantage

Nagy reached out to Bears fans to make a difference in a marquee game against the 11-1 Rams. The Bears are 5-1 at home this season.

“Just asking for them to come out and give us the excitement that they’ve given us all year long and get nice and loud again — and get after it,” Nagy said. “The players love it, and we appreciate that. Hopefully we can get that going again.”

Prime-time opportunity

A prime-time game against the best team in the league is a chance for the Bears to raise their national profile. But quarterback Mitch Trubisky doesn’t see it that way.

“Never,” he said. “This is a team game. I’m just excited for the opportunity to get back out there with my guys. We know we have a great opponent coming in — prime time or whatever. So it’s going to be a lot of fun.”