Winning on the road in the NFL is always difficult, but for the Bears it’s going to be just a little bit more important since they’re in an 0-1 hole already.
The Bears must pick up the pieces from their awful opening Thursday night performance from a week ago, figure out their offense, at least a little bit and take it out to the Mile High city against the Broncos.
This game is unique in that the Bears will have the longest possible time frame to prepare for the game, while the Broncos will have the shortest possible time.
The Broncos finished their road game in week one and will now play at home on Sunday. Advantage Bears? Maybe, but who knows how to scheme against the Bears’ unproven quarterback more than the team’s former defensive coordinator that saw him up close and personal for the past three years?
Let’s break it all down.
SB Nation site: Mile High Report
Game day/time/TV: Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT, FOX
Record: 0-1, last place in AFC West
Last week: 24-16 loss on Monday Night Football to the Raiders
Bears all-time record against: 7-8
Historical match ups: This isn’t really a rivalry filled with a ton of great history.
The last time these teams met in week two was all the way back in 1984 at Soldier Field.
Both teams came in 1-0 and both teams ended up playing multiple quarterbacks. The Bears used Jim McMahon and Bob Avellini, while the Broncos cycled through John Elway, Gary Kubiak and Scott Stankavage. Walter Payton rushed for 179 yards and a touchdown, while Matt Suhey had 59 yards and a touchdown. Willie Gault hauled in a McMahon pass for 61 yards and another score and the Bears blanked the Broncos 27-0.
Last meeting: In one of the seemingly many Brock Osweiler games, Gary Kubiak showed out against former Broncos coach John Fox at Soldier Field.
Osweiler went 20/27 for an even 250 yards and 2 TDs while Ronnie Hillman rushed for 102 yards. Jay Cutler threw an interception while Marquess Wilson (remember him?) had 102 yards. The Bears lost 17-15 after the Bears couldn’t score a game-tying 2-point attempt with less than 30 seconds left.
Injury report: The Broncos listed six players on their Wednesday injury report:
Limited: ILB Todd Davis (calf), G Ron Leary (quadriceps)
Did not participate: CB Bryce Callahan (foot), T Ja’Wuan James (knee), FB Andy Janovich (pectoral), ILB Joe Jones (triceps)
Offense: After week one, the Broncos rank 21st in offensive yards and 25th in points.
Veteran QB Joe Flacco (67.7 pct. cmp./268 yds./1 TD/0 INT) was fine last week. Just fine. Par for the course for his career, really. He was sacked three times by the Raiders though, and the Bears have a much more ferocious front seven than the Raiders.
With only one week as a sample size, the Broncos’ passing offense ranks 17th. Last week, Flacco’s top receivers were WRs Courtland Sutton (7 rec./120 yds./0 TD), Emmanual Sanders (5/86/1) and TE Noah Fant (2/29/0).
Denver only managed 95 rushing yards last week, which ranks 21st. The carries were split nearly evenly between Phillip Lindsay (11 att./43 yds./0 TD) and Royce Freeman (10/56/0). If Fant hadn’t lost five yards on a rushing attempt, they’d be sitting at 99 yards rushing on the season.
Defense: The Broncos’ defense ranks 16th in yards and 14th in points allowed after week one.
Vic Fangio’s unit managed to get gouged for two rushing touchdowns but still held the Raiders in check to 98 rushing yards, which puts them 13th in the league.
Thier passing defense ranks 17th after allowing 259 passing yards to Derek Carr. The Broncos did not get a turnover last week.
This is still a talented unit though, even if they are a few seasons removed from their dominant Super Bowl run. They have Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, who were both held sack-less by the Raiders. No Bronco got so much as a QB hit or tackle for loss against the Raiders either.
Derek Wolfe is the other name to know up front.
On the outside, Chris Harris (4 tkls) is still the name to know. He’s a four-time Pro-Bowler and former All-Pro.
At safety is the veteran Kareem Jackson (7 tkls/2 PD) who came over in the offseason from Houston.
Former Bear Bryce Callahan is injured and will likely miss this game and another former Bear, De’Vante Bausby could see some playing time in the nickel.
Starting ILB Todd Davis was limited in practice and could be out, while Josey Jewell (14 tkls) paced the Broncos on Monday night. CB Isaac Yiadom (8 tkls) was also active starting in place of Callahan.
Key match ups: Vic Fangio vs. Matt Nagy. The two should know each other’s tendencies, likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses fairly well. Fangio will know what can throw off Mitch Trubisky better than perhaps anyone.
The offensive line is going to have their hands full with Chubb and Miller, especially after struggling a week ago. The OL isn’t a group that anyone would consider suspect, so they should be able to bounce back, but that will be no easy task.
Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller are going to have to slow down Courtland Sutton and Emmanual Sanders, two good receivers in their own right. The Broncos have a solid OL in and protecting Joe Flacco is going to be paramount because he is a sitting duck with Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd baring down on him.
What to watch for: How will the Bears respond after a very embarrassing offensive effort a week ago? Is the defense going to step up to show their old coach that they are doing just fine without him?
How will this team handle the altitude?
The biggest question, of course, is how will the offense respond? Will Mitchell Trubisky have a better performance or will he again look lost and overwhelmed because Fangio will know just what to do to scheme against the young, unproven QB?
Key stats: The Broncos have won 20 straight week two home games since 1979. They are 14-1 at home in September going back to 2012.
Nagy’s Bears were 0-2 last year with 10 or more days off.
Three of their four losses last year were on the road.
The Bears were 3-1 after losses last year.
Joe Flacco is 1-2 against the Bears in his career.
Bears are 3-6 in their first road games since 2010.
Will the Bears get a big road win or is an 0-2 start on the horizon?