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Cardinals Searching For Right Ingredients Against Bears 

Sam Bradford will start as coach Steve Wilks avoids drastic changes

DT Robert Nkemdiche shoots through a gap against the Rams last week.
DT Robert Nkemdiche shoots through a gap against the Rams last week.

Through the first two weeks of the regular season, the Cardinals have been the meal equivalent of a bland, lukewarm soup.

After an early taste test, it's clear they need more spice and more heat, but coach Steve Wilks is not ready to dump the batch down the sink and start over.

Despite a pair of poor games to begin the season – and with a fanbase itching to see first-round pick Josh Rosen – quarterback Sam Bradford will start on Sunday against the Bears. An offense that has only mustered six points through two games will have a renewed emphasis on certain facets – namely, getting star running back David Johnson the ball in space – but an overhaul is not expected.

The Cardinals have not been competitive in either of their first two games, losing to the Redskins 24-6 and the Rams 34-0, but Wilks believes a turnaround is closer than meets the eye.

"The biggest thing is not wavering from what you believe in," Wilks said. "Right now, I haven't done that, and the players haven't done that, as well as the coaches. … We're one or two plays away – and that's one of those things that I know sounds crazy when you start talking about 34-0 – but you can't get frustrated. You've got to stay the course."

Wilks outlined the myriad ways the offense can improve. He wants to see the offensive line get a consistent push in the run game, the receivers get separation on their routes and Johnson flexed out into the slot more.

One of the most crucial aspects of a turnaround may be the semblance of a deep passing game, after just two completions of more than 20 yards in the first two contests. The Cardinals have many quick-strike calls in the playbook but there are also downfield shots built in.

"A couple times, I thought guys were open," Wilks said. "Again, Sam has got to have patience and confidence in the pocket to be able to step up and make that throw. It's a number of things, but I don't want to put it on the receivers because I thought sometimes they ran effective routes. We've just got to have time to get the ball out to them."

The Cardinals will face off with a Bears defense that has forced four turnovers in two games and scored a pair of defensive touchdowns. Defensive end Khalil Mack is one of the best players in the NFL and will be a handful.

"We know this week's a challenge," Bradford said. "I think we're up to it."

Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has been inconsistent through two games, throwing for 371 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. For the Cardinals to get their first win of the season, it seems essential they force him into a subpar performance.

The defense has not struggled quite as badly as the offense, but vast improvement is needed. Much like the offense, the focus will be refinement rather than drastic alterations.

"Based on the opponent and your preparation, you have a wrinkle here and a wrinkle there, but for the most part, we are who we are," defensive coordinator Al Holcomb said.

The Cardinals hope their true selves are not the team that graced the field the first two weeks. Another underwhelming performance would amplify the angst -- and bring Rosen talk to a fevered pitch -- while a win would relieve some pressure.

Linebacker Josh Bynes isn't waving the white flag on a season just two games old. He was on a 2015 Lions team that began the year 1-7 and then won six of its final eight. He was on a 2012 Ravens team that started 9-2, lost four of five to end the year and then won the Super Bowl.

The season, he said, can be a roller coaster.

"We can't be sitting here thinking everything's over," Bynes said. "We've got to get our stuff down, and we have to get it down as soon as we possibly can, so we get that one win and get everything rolling. We definitely want to get back to where we are supposed to be. We know we're a way better team than what we've been doing."

Images of this week's opponent, the Chicago Bears