After facing a modest Packers receiving corps last week (three rookies, two second-year players), the Bears’ secondary has a tougher test in Week 2 against Buccaneers veterans Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
The 6-5, 231-pound Evans is a matchup problem for even the best defensive backs. He’s a four-time Pro Bowl player with nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL. The 6-1, 209-pound Godwin, a 2019 Pro Bowl receiver, is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. They combined for 14 receptions, 187 yards and four touchdowns against the Bears in a 38-3 rout in Tampa in 2021.
Evans (6-66, one touchdown) and Godwin (5-51) combined for 117 of Baker Mayfield’s 173 passing yards in a 17-16 victory against the Vikings in Week 1 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Bears’ secondary will be short-handed with nickel cornerback Kyler Gordon (hand) on injured reserve and back-up Josh Blackwell (hamstring) doubtful. Greg Stroman Jr. could replace Gordon. Rookie Terell Smith and Jaylon Jones also could fill that role.
Veteran Jaylon Johnson loves a challenge but can’t cover everyone. This is an early major test for impressive rookie Tyrique Stevenson, who showed off his physicality and hustle against the Packers, but will be tested more in pass coverage in this one.
The Bears were outscored in the second half — and 172-81 overall — nine times in the 10-game losing streak that closed the 2022 season. That dubious trend continued with a fortified, more experienced roster in Week 1, as the Packers outscored the Bears 28-7 to take a 38-14 lead before the Bears scored a consolation touchdown with 2:54 to play in a 38-20 loss at Soldier Field.
Player to watch
Bears quarterback Justin Fields had a shaky 2023 debut. He had a 106.3 passer rating in the Bears’ first three drives (8 of 10, 95 yards), but a 67.1 rating in the final nine drives (16 of 27, 121 yards, one touchdown, one interception), plus a fumble for a turnover.
The offensive line was a culprit, with generally poor protection in its first game after having limited snaps together in training camp or the preseason. Right guard Nate Davis in particular, had a rough Week 1. After signing a three-year, $30 million contract in free agency — then taking OTAs off — he needs to be much better, and quickly.
The Bears will be without defensive coordinator Alan Williams, who is not making the trip because of a personal issue. Coach Matt Eberflus will call defensive plays for Williams. Eberflus was a play-caller as the defensive coordinator for the Colts from 2018-22, so it’s not a new gig. Any break in routine could be a challenge. But it could also provide a spark for a defense that was a disappointment last week.