After struggling to contain Patriots linebacker Matt Judon last week the Bears have an even biggest challenge with Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.
The 6-3, 245-pound Parsons had 13 sacks as a rookie, not only winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, but finishing second to Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt for the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Parsons has picked up where he left off, with eight sacks in seven games.
Parsons is questionable with a shoulder injury after being limited in practice this week. But the Bears are bracing for the responsibility of containing him. Rookie left tackle Braxton Jones has been encouraging but still is a first-year player. Second-year right tackle Larry Borom, who bore the runt of Judon’s impact last week, has been out this week with a concussion. Either former No. 1 pick Alex Leatherwood or veteran Riley Reiff would replace him.
“He’s a freak, man,” Bears tight end Cole Kmet said of Parsons. “His explosiveness off the line, his ability to play on the line and off the ball … he’s a guy for sure we’re gonna have to key on in the passing game. It’s gonna be on us [to] establish the run game early and kind of wear those guys down and stay out of those third-and-long situations when it’s obvious passing downs.”
The Bears lead the NFL in rushing (and are fifth in yards per carry) after gaining 243 yards on 45 carries (5.4 avg.) and two touchdowns against the Patriots.
While Justin Fields’ 82 yards and Dante Pettis’ 29 yards on a jet sweep added to that total, running backs Khalil Herbert (12-62) and David Montgomery (15-62) combined for 124 yards on 27 carries.
The Cowboys’ defense is sixth in yards and second in points allowed, but 20th against the run (120.1 avg.) and 17th in yards per carried allowed (4.4 avg.).
PLAYER TO WATCH
Bears quarterback Justin Fields is coming off an encouraging performance against the Patriots, when he completed 13-of-21 passes for 179 yards, one touchdown and one interception (85.2 rating) and rushed 14 times for 82 yards in a 33-14 victory.
Fields’ designed runs were key to the production — the most points the Bears have scored on offense with a quarterback rating of 88.0 or less since 1989, when Mike Tomczak and Jim Harbaugh combined for a 74.9 rating in a 42-35 loss to the Buccaneers.
Now it’s a chess game, with the Cowboys sure to respond to that facet of the Bears’ offense, and the Bears needing to respond in kind.
“That’s the challenge of every coach across the league,” offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said, “to find ways to do what your guys do well without letting it be so obvious or predictable.”
The Bears’ played their best game of the season on 10 days rest. Now they’re on short rest against an even better defense. That’s a big challenge for Matt Eberflus and a developing team.