Chargers (2-5) at Chicago (3-3)
When Chargers have the ball
The last time this team’s offense appeared in public, the Chargers couldn’t gain the one yard necessary to pull off a dramatic, potentially season-shifting victory at Tennessee. And that graphic failure ended a day on which the offense actually played better than it had the previous two weeks. “There’s no denying that was a tough one,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “When you think you might have won it twice and then to not. … To fight back the way we did. It’s been a tough three weeks.” Indeed it has. The Chargers have scored only four offensive touchdowns over consecutive losses to Denver, Pittsburgh and the Titans. And just one of those scores has come before the start of the fourth quarter. Now, they face a defense that is fifth-best at preventing points. Chicago is surrendering 17.5 points per game, although the Bears have been more generous the last two weeks. The Chargers again will be looking to establish the run, something they have come nowhere close to doing during their three-game losing streak. They haven’t reached as many as 40 yards rushing in a game since Sept. 29 at Miami — a team that still hasn’t won a game. The Chargers desperately need to get well on offense, but facing an opponent that features outside linebacker Khalil Mack might not be the best place to start.
When Bears have the ball
Know how much the Chargers have struggled to run the ball over the last three weeks? Get this: Chicago is coming off a game in which it netted 17 yards in seven attempts. The Bears ran only twice after halftime in a 36-25 loss to New Orleans. An inability to run hasn’t even been Chicago’s biggest issue on offense, not with what has been happening with quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Selected second overall in 2017 — eight spots before Kansas City took Patrick Mahomes — Trubisky has been unable to play at the level he reached in 2018. There are concerns in Chicago about his confidence. Trubisky has appeared rattled at times and, last week, inexplicably threw the ball away on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter. The Chargers, however, have lost consecutive games to quarterbacks — Pittsburgh’s Devlin Hodges and Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill — taking over as starters. So they haven’t exactly capitalized on opponents dealing with instability at the position. The Bears rank in the bottom quarter of the league in points, yards passing and yards rushing. At 3-3, Chicago is a .500 team that — mostly because of the situation with Trubisky — is considered to be performing at a level less than average.
When they kick
The Chargers were so concerned about Cordarrelle Patterson in the playoffs last season that they brought in Nick Rose specifically to kick off against New England. Patterson signed with Chicago as a free agent in March and is second in the NFL in kickoff returns. The Bears’ Tarik Cohen is second in the league in punt returns. The Chargers have produced one memorable moment running back kicks, Desmond King scoring on a 68-yard punt return against Denver.
Jeff Miller’s prediction
A Chargers victory Sunday happens only if the Bears, who have a very capable defense, lose back-to-back home games. They’ve already lost twice at Soldier Field, meaning the Chargers will be looking to drop them to 1-3 there. The Bears lost only once at home last season, and that was to the Patriots. In other words, this would seem like another daunting hurdle to clear during a season in which the Chargers keep stumbling over their own feet.
BEARS 20, CHARGERS 12