The Chicago Bears are leaning heavily on their running game while bringing along rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky slowly.
Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, attempted 41 passes in two games since taking over for Mike Glennon at quarterback. He threw 16 passes at Baltimore, while the Bears ran 54 times for 231 yards. Jordan Howard finished with a career-high 167 yards and is fourth in the league in rushing.
Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis expects to see a heavy dose of the running game Sunday when the Panthers (4-2) visit the Bears (2-4).
“They are doing a tremendous job of running the ball and controlling the game,” Davis said. “… If it’s working why would you go away from it?”
The Bears are third in the league overall in rushing, averaging 136 yards per game. They are averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
Trubisky, who played college football at North Carolina, joked he’s never handed the ball off this much in his entire football life.
“That just speaks a lot about the type of guys we have up front and the running backs we have here,” Trubisky said. “And if the defense plays that type of (two-deep) coverage and they give us that front that we gotta run the ball until they get out of it.”
Things to watch between the Bears and Panthers on Sunday:
LESS IS MORE FOR PEPPERS: Panthers 37-year old defensive end Julius Peppers said he loves his new situational role in Carolina.
“Less is more,” Peppers said with a smile.
Peppers is playing less, but producing more. He has 6 1/2 sacks through six games.
Peppers originally left Carolina for Chicago in 2010 for an opportunity to “stand up” and play outside linebacker. He played that position for the better part of seven seasons with the Bears and Packers. While he said he has no regrets about that decision, he admitted defensive end is “my more natural position.”
TAKE IT AWAY: Though they rank 31st with a minus-8 turnover margin, the Bears hope they are on the rise after last week’s win. They had three takeaways at Baltimore, including two interceptions. Adrian Amos returned one 90 yards for a touchdown.
Prior to that game, the Bears were one of three teams that had not picked off a pass. That came on the heels of back-to-back seasons with a franchise-low eight interceptions.
Carolina has forced a mere four turnovers this season.
KUECHLY CONCUSSION: Panthers three-time All-Pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly has been in the NFL concussion protocol since taking a shot to the head in the Eagles game on Oct. 12 and has not practiced since.
David Mayo would get his first NFL start if Kuechly can’t play. While the Panthers adhere to the “next man up” philosophy, it’s pretty clear they will miss Kuechly’s presence.
“You don’t replace Luke Kuechly,” Peppers said. “He’s a special guy.”
BENJAMIN’S STATUS: Panthers starting wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin left practice Wednesday with swelling in his left knee, leaving his status for Sunday up in the air. Benjamin tore his left ACL in 2015 and reinjured it earlier this season when he got his leg bent backward awkwardly against the New Orleans Saints. He was held out of the rest of that game, returned the following week.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said wide receivers Curtis Samuel and Russell Shepard will see additional work if Benjamin is unable to go.
NO DEEP THREAT: The Panthers’ inability to stretch the field with a deep passing game is starting to impact the team’s running game.
Carolina running backs Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey and Fozzy Whittaker were held to a combined 1 yard rushing on 13 carries in the 28-23 loss to the Eagles. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said that’s because Philadelphia was able to stack the box with eight or nine players. Rivera is optimistic Samuel and Shepard can stretch the field with deep routes, helping free up the running game.
“One of the problems we are having is the secondaries are stuffing the box,” Shepard said. “If we can get them away from the box we can open up the running game a little more.”
AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.
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