Bears defensive players have noticed impressive Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow all week on film as a mobile, strong-armed passer.
"I feel like he's a lot more athletic than he may look," defensive end Bilal Nichols said. "He has the ability to make great throws. Smart guy. And he also has the ability to get out of the pocket if you let him.
"So we've just got to contain him and keep him in there, do everything we can to affect him."
The problem Burrow faces was well defined in Week 1 even though the Bengals won 27-24 over the Minnesota Vikings. Coming off an ACL tear, Burrow was sacked by the Vikings five times.
Going against a Bears pass rush which has potential to be much better than Minnesota's, the Bengals offense could find matchups overall more difficult this week on the road.
What the Bengals were able to accomplish last week in the passing game came about largely because of the counter threat posed by running back Joe Mixon, who led the NFL after a week against the run.
The Bears really never got tested against the run by the Rams early, as L.A. focused on passing throughout the first three quarters.
Mixon will keep the Bears honest more in this game than the Rams' backs did. In the passing game they'll need to rely on mismatches from their front to keep pressure on Burrow.
Here are three mismatches for the Bears to exploit in Sunday's first game at Soldier Field with fans since 2019.
Bears OLB Khalil Mack vs. Bengals T Riley Reiff
Reiff is very familiar with Mack but was playing left tackle for the Vikings from 2018-20. So he and Mack only did battle when the Bears swung their star pass rusher to the opposite side of the line. This was always a tactic the Bears could use when Vic Fangio was defensive coordinator and before the Bears signed Robert Quinn. But Quinn's aversion to the left side of the defensive line makes this difficult for the Bears to do unless he's substituted for on a play or series. Now Reiff is on the right side. Mack always had an edge against Minnesota. In games when Reiff was playing from 2018-2020, Mack had three sacks. Reiff is built more like a left tackle, which is where he played almost all of his career. Right tackles are usually a bit heavier and more powerful than Reiff, who is fundamentally sound as a blocker and has had solid PFF blocking grades. Mack had a quiet first game and was graded poorly by PFF for his standards, a 61 overall. He usually bounces back from quiet games and he hasn't been on the injury report this week with the groin injury that was bothering him last week when he missed practice time.
Bears DE Akiem Hicks vs. Bengals G Xavier Su'a-Filo
Hicks got off to a solid start with half a sack and helped the run defense limit the Rams to 74 yards last week. Hicks is coming in much lighter this year at 335 pounds, and doesn't appear to have slowed down at 31. Su'a-Filo has been plagued by injuries through recent years and in only one of his seasons did Pro Football Focus give him an overall blocking grade above 65.0. The Bengals offensive line is probably the biggest question on their side of the ball heading into this game
Bears WR Allen Robinson vs. Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie
Robinson was held in check, as usual, by the Rams secondary and former Jaguars teammate Jalen Ramsey but the matchup is less challenging this week. Robinson managed six catches last week but for only 35 yards. Getting downfield on the outside might be a bit easier against a Bengals defense playing mostly man-to-man coverage with a single high safety. Then again, they'll blitz more and the Bears offensive line will need to provide more time for Andy Dalton to throw than he had against the Rams, who didn't blitz. According to Sportradar, official stat partner of the NFL, Awuzie gave up six receptions in seven targets last week. Last year with Dallas, he allowed a 103.5 passer rating against. Robinson has a 2-inch reach advangage and a 5-inch better vertical leap than Awuzie, who had a vertical of 34 inches.