Chicago Bears Gameday: 3 Keys to Victory over the Arizona Cardinals

Chicago Bears, Tremaine Edmunds
Chicago Bears, Tremaine Edmunds / Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
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The (5-9) Chicago Bears will spend Christmas Eve as hosts to the (3-11) Arizona Cardinals, with the home team looking to rebound from another late-game collapse a week ago. Still, the Bears are looking to earn their sixth win and their third in four games, while doubling their total from just a season ago.

With the Bears' playoff hopes taking a serious dip after last week, this game will greatly shake the order of the 2024 NFL Draft, with a Cardinals' win helping both of Chicago's top draft picks. But for a team with a coaching staff and quarterback who may be playing for their jobs over the final three games of this season, the Bears are likely focused on taking care of Arizona.

However, the Bears will need to execute better than they did a week ago on both sides of the ball, and with the Cardinals themselves on a surge since Kyler Murray returned from injury, the home team should have their hands full with a team desperate for a win. To win, the Bears need to accomplish the following three keys to success:

The Chicago Bears offense needs to reestablish their identity on the ground

Since the start of the Matt Eberflus/Ryan Poles era, the offense's identity has been their rushing attack. With quarterback Justin Fields serving as a main feature of that attack throughout the 2022 campaign, the 2023 season seemed like an opportunity to decrease the number of times he was relied upon as a rusher. This has not necessarily proven to be the case, as Fields' rush attempts per game are down only slightly from 10.6 in 2022 to 9.6 in 2023.

Similarly, Fields' production has declined since last season, despite still being one of the league's premier dual-threat quarterbacks. In 2022, Fields led all rushers with 7.1 yards per attempt, with his 76.2 rush yards per game finishing first amongst quarterbacks and sixth amongst all players. This season, these totals have dropped to 5.1 yards per attempt (sixth amongst all players), and 48.8 rush yards per game, with both numbers serving as second-best for a quarterback behind only Lamar Jackson.

Chicago Bears, Justin Fields
Chicago Bears, Justin Fields / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The decline in Fields' rushing production is not particularly surprising following a near record-breaking season in 2022, but the bigger worry remains around the Bears' rush attack as a whole. In the 15 games that Fields started in 2022, the offense averaged 108.4 yards and .6 touchdowns on 23 carries per game not including Fields' production, meaning that this was generated solely by runningbacks and other non-quarterback ball carriers, mainly David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert.

This season, the rushing attack outside of Fields has been less productive and less consistent, especially since he returned from injury. In those four games, detailed in the chart below, the rushing attack outside of Fields averaged 70 rush yards per game and 3.4 yards per rush. For context, if you extrapolated these numbers across an entire season, the rushing attack would rank 32nd in both categories.


Team Rushing Total (Atts - Yards - TDs)

Justin Fields (Atts - Yards - TDs)

Non-Justin Fields (Atts - Yards - TDs)

@ DET 11/19 (L)

46 - 183 - 1

18 - 104 - 0

28 - 79 - 1

@ MIN 11/27 (W)

28 - 118 - 0

12 - 59 - 0

16 - 59 - 0

vs DET 12/10 (W)

30 - 142 - 2

12 - 58 - 1

18 - 84 - 1

@ CLE 12/17 (L)

27 - 88 - 0

7 - 30 - 0

20 - 58 - 0

All of these numbers indicate that, at least recently, the Bears have had problems moving the ball on the ground without Fields' help. The Cardinals and their 31st-ranked rush defense present a good opportunity to reestablish the ground attack in Chicago, and to do so while still mixing in Fields' rushing abilities, especially in key situations. Fields is a talented athlete who should be allowed to make plays with his legs, but if the team wants to avoid him taking the type of hits that they have to call the league about, other ball carriers have to be more heavily relied upon than they have in recent weeks.