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Huddle up: Bears facing 0-4 hole for first time since 2000

Are Raiders really on the rise with QB Derek Carr?

The NFL did the Bears few favors when it scheduled the new regime to open the season with three straight opponents that made the playoffs last season. Perhaps the Bears would have started 0-3 regardless of their extensive injury woes, but that's behind them now.

This week, a beatable but ascending Raiders team visits Soldier Field riding momentum of their first road victory in 12 tries. The Bears, meanwhile, need a victory to avoid their first four-game losing streak to start a season since 2000.

Here's a snapshot of Sunday's game:

Player in spotlight

A month after Charles Leno failed to capitalize on his opportunity to win the starting right tackle job, he will start at left tackle in place of Jermon Bushrod (shoulder, concussion).

"I'm really excited, ready to … get back to playing the way I know I can," he said.

Leno's comfort with the footwork required on the left side is a product of 26 starts he made at the position over his final two seasons at Boise State from 2012-13.

The former seventh-round pick also senses benefits from the 15 snaps he has played this season as the sixth lineman in that particular personnel grouping.

Leno will face some formidable pass rushers as part of the Raiders' hybrid front: two-time Pro Bowl end Justin Tuck, one-time Pro Bowler Aldon Smith, and Khalil Mack, last year's fifth overall pick.

With Leno in the starting lineup, sixth-round rookie tackle Tayo Fabuluje will be active for the first time.

"I feel prepared," Fabuluje said. "I'm trying to get better every day in every aspect — footwork, hand placement, learning the left side."

Pressing question

Can the Bears open up their passing game?

Coaches opted for a run-heavy game plan last Sunday against the Seahawks for several reasons.

• Backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen started for the first time this season.

• The Bears recognize their pass protection issues.

• They wanted to control the clock.

• They feared the Seahawks' ball-hawking defense and problems resulting from crowd noise on the road.

Some, but not all, of those apply this Sunday. The Bears respect the Raiders' secondary because of 18th-year veteran Charles Woodson, but that group has underperformed as a whole. Cornerback D.J. Hayden, drafted 12th overall in 2013, has had to fight to keep his starting job.

Offensively, the Bears must answer questions about their ability to protect the quarterback, especially with a backup left tackle starting. Plus, injured quarterback Jay Cutler's lack of mobility avoiding the rush could affect the Bears' efficiency.

Injuries

If Cutler makes it to Sunday morning without aggravating his strained hamstring, he will operate an offense that's far from full strength. He's listed as questionable.

Receiver Alshon Jeffery worked with a strength coach on a side field Friday while receivers went through position drills during the portion of practice open to reporters. That's a strong indication he won't play, despite being listed as questionable for the game.

It would be the third straight game he has missed. Eddie Royal has led Bears' wide receivers in receptions (10) and yards (58) the last two weeks.

Cornerback Alan Ball believes he will play despite tweaking his groin during the week. If he can't, veteran Tracy Porter is ready to start.

Punter Pat O'Donnell was listed as questionable for the game with a sprained right knee, but ESPN reported the Bears agreed to sign punter Spencer Lanning, indicating O'Donnell is out. O'Donnell punted 10 times in last Sunday's shutout.

Of the three defensive linemen listed as questionable — Jeremiah Ratliff (ankle), Ego Ferguson (knee) and Will Sutton (left elbow) — Sutton seems the least likely to play. He didn't finish last Sunday's loss.

View from Oakland

Quarterback Derek Carr's ascent has breathed life into the woebegone Raiders franchise. The second-round (36th overall) pick in 2014 is one of nine qualifying quarterbacks with a passer rating above 100 this season — his mark of 102.4 ranks eighth. His interception percentage of 1.1 is tied for fourth-best.

Perhaps the biggest element of Carr's success is his red-zone efficiency. Pull up a chair for these numbers: 19 games, 21 red-zone touchdown passes, only one interception.

"He has a quick release," Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "He has good targets to throw to, and he's accurate. So those are the qualities you're looking for in a quarterback to succeed in the red zone. He can put the ball in tight windows that you have down there, and they have good balance down there in the scheme."

rcampbell@tribune.com

Twitter @Rich_Campbell

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