Bears vs. Dolphins: What to Watch 4
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It seems unlikely outside linebacker Khalil Mack can keep exceeding expectations, but that possibility exists against Dolphins right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who has been shaky against lesser foes than Mack this season. Mack already has five sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown this season.
James figures to get help with Mack, but that could open things up for other playmakers on the Bears’ defense. The Dolphins already have lost left guard Josh Sitton and center Daniel Kilgore to season-ending injuries, and left tackle Laremy Tunsil is just out of the concussion protocol.
Mack had four tackles and nothing else against the Dolphins with the Raiders last season. But Dolphins coach Adam Gase knows Mack in the hands of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio might be a particularly vexing problem.
‘‘Playing those guys later in the season [Week 9], he was pretty banged up,’’ Gase said. ‘‘You can see that he’s in great shape. Probably him not being in training camp was really good for him, just because he was probably getting after it pretty hard early in his career, and you can see he looks explosive, fast and all of those things that you saw when he was in his first couple of years. He looks like he’s taken it to another level.’’
The Bears (3-1) have won three consecutive games for the first time since the first three weeks of the 2013 season. They are going for their first four-game winning streak since 2012, when they won five in a row as part of a 7-1 start in what would be Lovie Smith’s final season.
Player to watch
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky is coming off a monumental six-touchdown game Sept. 30 against the Buccaneers in which he accounted for 407 yards of total offense — 354 in the air and 53 on the ground.
Trubisky isn’t expected to light it up like that again, but he’s expected to be efficient enough to prove that the six-touchdown game against the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL wasn’t a fluke.
For what it’s worth, after Jay Cutler’s five best passer-rating games (all 138.1 and above), his average rating the next game was 75.1 (117.0, 88.8, 82.5, 70.4 and 16.7).
The Bears are coming off an early bye week, and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. Coach Matt Nagy gave his team the week off and trusted them to take care of business in practice when they returned.
The last time the Bears were coming off a bye after a big victory — in 2016 — they went to Tampa, Florida, with high hopes after beating the Vikings at Soldier Field but crapped out in a discouraging 36-10 loss to the Bucs. This game might be an indication of how much — or how little — things have changed under Nagy.