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Biggest Mismatch Trouble for Bears

Christian Kirk, DeAndre Hopkins and the explosive Arizona Cardinals receiver group can give the Chicago Bears pass defense fits with either quarterback Kyler Murray or Colt McCoy.

The Bears see a quarterback like Arizona's Kyler Murray at practice every day, so going against a very mobile passer is nothing new.

The trouble is, they don't have Justin Fields at practice due to his broken ribs and he doesn't run the scout team any more as the starter.

The Bears secondary has had its share of problems and now the linebackers could be without their best way of containing running QBs because linebacker Roquan Smith has a hamstring injury.

So they'll be exposed while facing one of the league's best at getting out of the pocket to make plays running or passing.

"He can extend plays and he can make a lot of throws, so for us in the back end and the rush, we've got to contain him in the rush and in the back end we've got to cover a little longer," safety Eddie Jackson said. "There's going to be a lot of scramble drills. So we've just got to keep our eyes on our man."

They've got other headaches against a 9-2 team and the fact the Cardinals are a warm-weather lot coming to Soldier Field and 30-degree temperatures isn't likely to offer much help, or enough to counter the talent and scheme gaps at work.

Here are matchups where the Bears figure to have the most problems against Arizona.

Bears CB Artie Burns vs. Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins suffered a hamstring injury Oct. 28 against the Green Bay Packers and with all that time off and an extra week for a bye leading up to this game, it's likely he'll be able to go against the Bears. Possessing possibly the game's best set of hands, Hopkins already has as many TD receptions as he has had since 2018, and he has missed three games. His catch percentage (71.4%) is just off his career best (71.9%) set last year. And he's lining up over the side where with Burns, a reserve who didn't play last year with a torn ACL after he had lost his starting job with the Pittsburgh Steelers and then later was discarded. Burns' playing time against Detroit was his first in the Bears defense and first other than preseason in a game since 2019. The Bears could choose to move Jaylon Johnson on Hopkins all over the field, but the advantage of this might be negated by the fact the Cardinals have A.J. Green, Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore available as targets, so it becomes pick your poison.

Bears CB Xavier Crawford vs. Cardinals WR Christian Kirk

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The Cardinals slot receiver, Kirk, leads their team in receptions with 49 for 628 yards and has an outstanding catch percentage of 80.3. Basically, the Cardinals are playing pitch and catch when either Murray or backup Colt McCoy have thrown to Kirk because they have a 117.8 passer rating when targeting him. He is not catching 5-yard passes either, as his 12.8-yard average is very healthy for a slot receiver. Crawford is a former Bears practice squad player who is starting because of a hamstring injury to slot cornerback Duke Shelley. Against Detroit, Crawford saw significant defensive playing time for the first and only time this year other than the loss to Green Bay. For 82 plays on defense this season Crawford has allowed 83.3% completions and a 100 passer rating, although he has avoided giving up a touchdown.

Bears S Tashaun Gipson vs. Cardinals TE Zach Ertz

With so many targets possible, it's difficult to see how the Bears could avoid using a linebacker to cover Ertz but they will have a hard time doing it. In cases where they could use someone else, it likely would be Tashaun Gipson. The former Eagles tight end has been a pain to the Bears in his career with an average of 6.7 receptions and 77.7 yards against them in three games with Philadelphia. The Cardinals just figured out how to use Ertz within their offense, too. He is coming off his best game in Arizona at eight catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns against Seattle. The Bears may be forced into playing with one linebacker much of the game since Roquan Smith is injured (hamstring) and Danny Trevathan (knee) is on IR. Alec Ogletree's strength is pass coverage but expect the Bears to get the other linebacker off the field as much as possible and to put DeAndre Houston-Carson on the field for extra coverage against a strong passing attack. Gipson would then get matched up on Ertz. The Bears would want to avoid covering Ertz with Christian Jones, their fourth inside linebacker, as he's more of an upfield attacker and pass rusher than coverage linebacker. He has had to defend 14 passes the last two seasons with the Bears and Detroit and allowed 13 completions. They could use linebacker Caleb Johnson instead of Jones in that case but he's an undrafted rookie and this would be a real gamble.

Bears right tackle Larry Borom vs. Cardinals OLB Markus Golden

Golden is having a fabulous season with 10 sacks as the opposite-side complement to Chandler Jones after returning to his original team following a stint with the Giants. Golden is at his best coming from very wide to the outside and forcing the tackle to adjust to his quickness. Borom has been a surprise as a pass blocker and has allowed just one sack on 276 plays, with two penalties. Pro Football Focus gives the rookie a respectable 64.7 pass-blocking grade. Whether Borom can display the footwork necessary to get out on Golden in obvious passing situations is going to be one of the keys for the Bears offense, especially with a less mobile quarterback playing like Andy Dalton.

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