By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
In an all-important, must-win game, the Chicago Bears came together as a team and defeated a division rival, the Minnesota Vikings, in a 16-6 old school, defensive slugfest Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field.
This was a critical game for the Bears to win in order to keep their hopes for winning the division alive. There was a price to pay for the Bears as they were dealt another significant injury.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky left the game early dealing with an undisclosed, non-throwing shoulder issue that will likely hold him out this Sunday against the Raiders in London. Backup quarterback Chase Daniel came in and did the job of leading the Bears offense and doing enough to get the victory.
While the offense dealt with adversity once Trubisky left, the defense never had a problem and performed a miraculously dominant game. Now, with the win in hand, the Bears are tied for first in the NFC North, with the Packers.
With their loss, the Vikings move to last place at 2-2 just below the 2-1-1 Lions. Lets take a look at a few of the big takeaways from Sunday’s 16-6 win.
As all Bears fans are hoping and praying that the offense can get going, on the other side is a defense playing out of their minds good. Every single ingredient for a dominant defense has been mixed together here in Chicago for the perfect recipe.
Heading into the game the team was dealt some big blows on defense with an inactive list of defensive lineman Bilal Nichols, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and inside linebacker Roquan Smith. Especially in the case of Smith, both Nichols and Hicks were expected to miss this game but Smith was a late scratch on game day for personal reasons. Thats two All Pro caliber players as well as another starter all unavailable for a huge divisional game.
Seemingly it felt like the offense would have to play well to help out the defense but the Bears defense doesn’t look like it needs any help right now. This is the best defense in football with crazy amounts of talent at every level. Edge rusher Khalil Mack got the day started with a strip sack, five more huge sacks would come from the defense as the day went on.
Losing Hicks was tough but multiple guys stepped up on the defensive line like Roy Robertson-Harris and Nick Williams, both combined for three and a half sacks. As for the loss of Smith, backup and athletically limited Nick Kwiatkoski looked like a different player out there. Kwiatkoski frankly dominated and made multiple terrific plays, he is definitely skilled at coming down hill in a hurry with violence. Don’t forget about that Bears secondary as they shut down the passing game of the Vikes. Only wide receiver Stefon Diggs made any significant contribution and it mostly came in garbage time.
A key point in the game came when Diggs was stripped by corner back Prince Amukamara recovered by safety HaHa Clinton-Dix after a series of drive saving penalties by the Bears.
What a shockingly good performance by the defense against a good opponent with as many injuries as they had. They completely shut down the Vikings vaunted running attack of running back Dalvin Cook and quarterback Kirk Cousins wasn’t up for the challenge.
Hopefully the Bears offense can catch up to this defense because then they would definitely have a Super Bowl-caliber team.
Chase to the Rescue
When Trubisky went down on the first drive it was panic time for a little bit by Bears fans.
Daniel came in and he did his thing as he played exactly like a high paid backup should. Some fans will cry for Daniel to be the permanent starter over Trubisky but its really a silly conversation. Daniel had two completions over 10 yards and missed multiple throws so its not like he was purely on point with the football.
It is clear in his comfortability within the offense that Daniel has really mastered this system in a way Trubisky has not. But the obvious talent of Trubisky allows for the potential of an offensive explosion that Daniel can not bring. Many already believe Trubisky will not be able to play this week and once again it will be up to Daniel to put out enough offense for the defense to win the game.
Daniel should be good at not making critical mistakes but can he make the critical plays is the question. But overall what a game from your backup considering he didn’t have much or if any reps during the week. Not many would have guessed he would go 22 of 30 with a touchdown pass, no turnovers, and a rating of 101.4 against the Vikings defense.
If he didn’t get one already, Daniel deserves a game ball for that effort and keeping his team’s season hopes alive. Hopefully Trubisky won’t be on the shelf for too long and that Daniel can keep this effort up in Trubisky’s absence.
A lot of credit needs to go the head coach Matt Nagy in getting his team ready to go. The focus on the field was off the charts, there were some dumb penalties early but a halftime adjust helped the Bears go penalty free.
Assignments were solid and if any were missed it was a handful here or there. Game plans on offense and defense made a ton of sense even if the execution wasn’t always perfect. Some coaches decide to go ultra conservative with a backup quarterback but Nagy continued to push forward and they needed all the aggressiveness they could muster on offense.
Make no mistake, that Vikings defense is real and that team is a good one, so for Nagy’s team to put up a performance like that with all the injuries is really impressive. It is still early but its slowly starting to feel like the Bears may have the best coaching staff in the division.
Winning this game and going into the bye 4-1 would be a terrific start to the season. This week will be tough though because its a London trip but if Nagy can get his guys focused on the game like they were on Sunday then they will be just fine.
Maybe for the first time this millennium or since Mike Ditka, it feels like the Bears have an elite coach. More proof is needed in the pudding as Nagy still has a lot to accomplish but 3-1 at the quarter point of the season all things considered is pretty darn good overall.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR