5 things to watch: Cowboys at Bears

Here are five things to keep an eye on Monday night when the Chicago Bears host the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field:

Pass rush: The Bears tied a season high with five sacks last week against Minnesota, and Julius Peppers produced his best performance of the season (2.5 sacks). Chicago racked up the sacks with aggressive and creative calls, and new addition Jeremiah Ratliff also contributed to the group in 23 snaps of action. He’ll play more Monday night against the Cowboys.

“I feel good. I feel stronger. I feel more balanced,” Ratliff said. “Everything’s holding up,and there haven’t been any complications. So I’m good.”

Obviously, the Bears need to dial up the heat even more against Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who has a penchant for making mistakes in the face of pressure.

Look for Ratliff to start inside next to Stephen Paea with Peppers and Shea McClellin on the outside at the end positions.

Run D: Believe it or not, the Bears fit the run well despite Adrian Peterson's reeling off 211 yards. The problem was that the Bears struggled to make tackles. That can’t happen against Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray. Dallas wants to try to establish the run early, but if it can’t, the Cowboys won’t hesitate to resort to a pass-happy attack.

That’s a good thing because it’ll mean the Cowboys have become one-dimensional.

“We’re to the point now where we’re there to make the play,” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “We just have to finish. We’re not talking about missed fits as much now as we were talking about maybe a couple of weeks ago. Now, we have to be more physical at the point of attack; get off blocks. We have to make tackles. There may have been some improvements here and there, but not enough where I would say we’ve improved in that area.”

Bears CBs vs. Dez Bryant:Bryant caught eight passes for 105 yards against the Bears on Monday night football last season, and he’s sure to make some plays in this contest. The key is for the Bears to limit the back-breakers, the plays that sway the momentum and become game-defining moments.

Chicago’s safeties also need to chip in against Bryant.

“We need all the guys to do their jobs and realize Dez Bryant is an explosive player. So of course, we’re going to keep our eye on him,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “We’re going to have to take away what they like to do so much whether we match [me] with him. If that give us a good chance to win, then I’ll be all for it.”

Short yardage:The Bears average nearly 400 yards per game on offense, but in short-yardage situation the club is horrid. Against the Minnesota Vikings, the Bears failed to convert three third-and-1 situations, and on the season, the Bears own a 42 percent conversion rate on third and 1.

“It’s a physical element, but it’s also a mental element. You’ve got to be assignment-right. Our mistakes have not been a question of effort or being outmanned or anything like that,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “Ours have been simply the three or four times we haven’t gotten it done, whether it’s goal line or short yardage, we’ve just got to do a better job in making sure we’re blocking the right guys. We’re going to get out-physicalled at times; teams do. But we feel it’s more just making sure that assignment wise, we’re sharp. All five guys plus our tight ends, our backs all have to be doing the right thing and we haven’t gotten it done. It’s difficult to make a yard in this league like that, and we’ve got to do a better job.”

Bears WRs: Alshon Jeffery is coming of a franchise single-game record 249 yards receiving, and Brandon Marshall is one of the NFL’s most dangerous receivers. So the duo should generate big numbers for the offense, provided the line protects quarterback Josh McCown adequately.

Dallas ranks No. 31 in the NFL in pass defense at (294.9) yards per games. So Chicago’s sixth-ranked passing attack should be able to light up the Cowboys. Marshall needs 10 yards receiving to make him and Jeffery the club's first receiving duo to gain 1,000 yards each in a season since 1995.

Marshall said he doesn’t like the matchup against Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr, but the Bears will look for ways to free up the receiver by lining him up in different places.

“They’re good players,” McCown said of Dallas’ cornerbacks. “Both of them are bigger guys, good cover guys, good man-coverage guys for sure and talented. We always feel good about our matchups, but this week especially. These guys are good players and they’ve been causing turnovers, so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”