Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears
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Bears defense must be great against Chargers to win

The Chicago Bears have one of the league’s best defenses. The unit will be put to the test on Sunday. By the opponent and its own team.

While the Los Angeles Chargers are 2-5 and could be without star receiver Keenan Allen due to a mid-week hamstring injury, the Bears defense will be challenged. Both by the Chargers and their own offense.

Last week, the Bears were coming off a bye and hosted the injury-riddled New Orleans Saints. Quarterback Drew Brees, running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Jared Cook were all inactive. The Saints still won 36-25, with the score not being anywhere near that close until the closing moments.

Mitchell Trubisky and the offense have been nothing short of rancid through six games, and it doesn’t figure to get much better. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram (if active) will be screaming off the edges, facing little resistance against tackles Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. Additionally, Los Angeles has corners Casey Hayward and Desmond King in the secondary, both good enough to limit Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel without help.

Unless Trubisky and the offense shock with a scoring barrage, it’s reasonable to expect no more than 17 points. So far this season, the Bears have struggled to overcome that barrier without defensive scores, including a Week 1 showing of three points against the Green Bay Packers and last week, where an offensive touchdown didn’t come until garbage time.

In short, this must-win game falls on defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano and his charges.

For his part, Pagano believes the defense can play better, but also acknowledged the bind it has been placed in.

“Sometimes you can press,” said Pagano, “and you can try to, ‘Hey, I’ve gotta do something special,’ to go make a play and get a turnover or do this and that, flip the field, whatever that is, and you can’t do that. You’ve gotta stay steady and stick to the process and do your job, and that’s it. It’s no different for me or anybody else.”

Pagano isn’t wrong about room to improve. Against New Orleans, the defense allowed 151 rushing yards on 4.3 yards per carry with Latavius Murray as the feature back. Against the Oakland Raiders in Week 5, the Bears were again dominated up front, allowing Derek Carr to sit in a clean pocket.

If the Bears are going to continue their march towards a playoff spot, it starts — and ends — with their defense.

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