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Cardinals Opponent Outlook: Scouting the Bears' Offense

The Arizona Cardinals take on a struggling Chicago Bears offense on the road Sunday.

The Arizona Cardinals could face one of two quarterbacks with very different skillsets Sunday in Chicago.

Bears rookie starter Justin Fields is a dual-threat who has shown flashes of excellence this season with his playmaking. Chicago traded up in the 2021 draft to select him 11th out of Ohio State to be their franchise quarterback of the future. 

He's also 22 years old and has had obvious growing pains. He's thrown eight interceptions to just four touchdowns. 

Fields injured his ribs in Week 11 and missed his team's most recent game, a Thanksgiving day win over the Lions. He was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday. 

Andy Dalton is the backup with 145 career starts, whom the Cardinals have faced in each of the last two seasons. Both were losses for Dalton's teams: the Cowboys (2020) and Bengals (2019).

He is much different from Fields as more of a prototypical pocket passer with better accuracy, at least at this stage of their respective careers. 

Dalton is completing 64.3% of his throws for 10.9 yards per completion. Fields is at 58.1%, but with 11.8 yards per completed pass. 

"They have two functional guys with Andy, who's an experienced guy, who's very bright, who won a big game for them last week," Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "And the young kid, Fields, he is dynamic as a runner and as a thrower. He's going to be special moving forward. So it won't be easy; it never is."

The Bears' offense in general shifts depending on the quarterback. With Fields in, they are a more run-heavy attack and can utilize run-pass options. 

Fields has 311 rushing yards, more than twice as many as Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. 

That allows them to be more versatile, which has been more effective. Dalton is the more secure passer, but the Bears have scored only 50 points during his three starts. 

Dalton took first-team reps Wednesday, perhaps a sign he is the more likely starter this week. 

"I think we're just more focused on playing our best football game yet," Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons said regarding Chicago's quarterback situation. "Just finally putting all the pieces together, playing together as one full unit . . . Really just more focusing on us opposed to our opponent."

The tandem, though, has the fourth-lowest passer rating in the NFL. 

The Bears primarily play out of 11- and 12-personnel, according to Sharp Football Stats.

Tight end Cole Kmet is Chicago's second-leading receiver with 37 grabs. They also have veteran tight ends Jimmy Graham and Jesse James. 

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The Bears have not been in the business of getting their playmakers the ball in space. They lead the league in depth per pass, but are last by a wide margin in yards after the catch. 

This puts pressure on the quarterback and receivers to get open and have great timing without many outlets, an area the Cardinals can take advantage of. 

Arizona has one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, third in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA). 

Plus, the Cardinals also have Markus Golden and Chandler Jones lining up on the edge, who are eighth and 11th in the league in sacks, respectively. 

The Bears allow the most sacks in the NFL, and Dalton is less equipped to escape than Fields. 

The Cardinals' pass rush could get very difficult to contain in third-and-long situations. The Bears will have to move the ball on the ground effectively to avoid those.

Chicago is a run-first team, even with some injuries this year at running back. It throws the ball at the third-lowest rate in the league. 

The Bears are eighth in the league in rushes and yards on the ground. 

David Montgomery is the lead back. He's gained 4.2 yards per carry on 113 rushes. 

The Cardinals' goal involves forcing the Bears to throw. 

"Every week, look at what they do best," Joseph said. "They have a lot of good skill guys. Montgomery is an NFL back who runs hard and breaks tackles. I think they're a top-10 rushing offense."

As far as pass-catchers, second-year wide receiver Darnell Mooney has been Chicago's top guy. Hhas 46 catches and three touchdowns this season, both team highs. 

Chicago also has former Pro Bowl wide receiver Allen Robinson II, but he has missed two games and was limited in practice this week with a hamstring issue. 

Overall, the Bears' offense has been limited this season. They have a very young group as Fields, Mooney, Montgomery, Kmet and three starting offensive linemen are all 25 years old or younger. 

Chicago has scored the fourth-fewest points in the NFL at 16.3 per game. It surpassed 20 points in just three of 11 contests with 27 being a season-high. It is third-to-last in first downs this year. 

In contrast, the Cardinals have scored over 27 points in eight of 11 games.