Banged-up Bears, 49ers try to see out stretch of adversity

Struggling to score and mount an attack that capably can sustain drives, the Chicago Bears have relied on their defense to keep them in most games this season.

An already banged-up unit may be facing another challenge when Chicago hosts the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Linebacker Khalil Mack, bothered by a foot injury since Week 3, did not practice Wednesday, and coach Matt Nagy hinted that the playmaker who ranks tied for seventh in the NFL with six sacks may be a candidate for the injured reserve list.

“We’re working through everything right now with Khalil,” Nagy said. “There’s been absolutely no decisions made. We’ll just kinda see where that all ends up.”

Chicago (3-4) needs all the pass-rush power it can get after absorbing a 38-3 throttling at Tampa Bay in Week 7.

Being without Mack would weaken a “D” that was missing defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (groin) and outside linebacker Robert Quinn (reserve/COVID-19 list) against the Buccaneers. Hicks was limited in practice to open the week.

Offensively, the Bears couldn’t muster much at Tampa beyond a second-quarter field goal from Cairo Santos. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields threw three interceptions, lost a pair of fumbles and was sacked four times.

Nagy, who is communicating with the team remotely after testing positive for COVID-19 this week, has hailed Fields’ determination to move past early struggles that largely eluded him during a standout collegiate career at Ohio State.

“That’s part of his developmental process. That would probably be more of the mental side,” Nagy said. “So, he’s done great with that. He understands it. And the fact that he’s competitive and that he’s won a lot of games, there’s a reason for that, because he’s able to persevere through adversity.

“When you go through adversity, you want a guy like Justin in your corner because you know he’s going to help you pull out of it.”

San Francisco (2-4) can attest to hard times, too. The 49ers enter Sunday on a four-game losing streak, the latest defeat coming 30-18 at the hands of the visiting Indianapolis Colts in Week 7.

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, a product of north suburban Chicago, passed for 181 yards and a touchdown in his return from a one-game absence with a calf injury. Garoppolo threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.

While Garoppolo is set to start against the Bears, rookie Trey Lance returned to practice this week — first as a limited participant — as he works back from a left knee sprain. Lance could be in uniform as the team’s backup should things progress, coach Kyle Shanahan said.

“We didn’t draft Trey to just fix this year, you know,” Shanahan said. “We drafted him so he could be the quarterback here of the future. And I get that’s a matter of time. But we’re not playing him just because of what our record is or just because of that, so that’s why our first thing in our discussions is, ‘How healthy is he?’ and ‘How is he going to look today?'”

San Francisco is contending with numerous injuries elsewhere, including left tackle Trent Williams (elbow), defensive end Dee Ford (concussion), linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (concussion), defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (calf) and safety Jaquiski Tartt (knee).

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