Payton Presser: Bears end regular season on a high note
The end of the regular season is finally here, ladies and gentlemen. Like most of you, going into the season, the thought of being in the playoffs was the diehard Bears fan in me. With a first-year head coach and new additions to the squad in the offseason, I knew this team had the potential to be good, but not 12 wins good. Matt Nagy and his team have surprised people this year. But for the guys inside the Bears locker room, they knew the post season was in the cards. The Bears ended their regular season with a 24-10 win over the Vikings, which also knocked Minnesota out of playoff contention. It’s been an amazing season and we still have more football to play. Let’s get to some of my takeaways from Sunday’s regular season finale.
Each week it seems we always have to start out with the Mitchell Report. As we all know, Trubisky’s play is so critical to this team’s success. Number 10 got a good warm up to how the post season is going to be at US Bank Stadium on Sunday. The crowd was on their feet and loud. Even with a hostile environment, Trubisky held his own and added another solid game to his young resume. Once again, the numbers weren’t eye-popping, but he made plays when he needed to. Trubisky completed 18 of 26 passes for 163 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. When you glance at his stats on the day, what makes me most happy is he took care of the football. Like I’ve said over and over, if Trubisky can take care of the football, this team is going to keep winning games. Trubisky led the Bears offense on an impressive late 3rd quarter 16-play drive that lasted 9:05 and ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Tarik Cohen. When they needed 1st downs, they took care of business. One thing I really liked was how efficient the Bears offense was on extending drives. Trubisky and company were 8 of 14 on third downs. His performance on Sunday was another step in the right direction for the QB. From what I’ve seen in the regular season, Trubisky is ready for his post season debut next weekend.
Trubisky’s day was made a lot easier because of the success the Bears had early with the running game. Nagy fed Jordan Howard early and it paid off. The Vikings were gashed early and had to switch up their game plan. With the Bears’ success on the ground, the Vikings had to bring another man in the box to stop the run, which opened up the passing game. Howard put the team on his back rushing the ball 21 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He is a workhorse. With the addition of more playmakers this past offseason and the way Nagy calls plays, Howard’s role has changed on this team. Please don’t be mistaken. He is still the guy that had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons his first two years in the NFL. When it comes to playoff football, teams that can run the ball always seem to have success. The Bears O-Line deserves a lot of credit as well. Their pass protection has been on point and they have really been a force in helping to get the running game going. I think Nagy knows that and will have to lean on his big back as they get ready to host the Eagles. With Allen Robinson out with a hip injury, and losing Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel to injuries during the game, the Bears got some help from wideouts Javon Wims and Kevin White. Wims stepped up catching 4 balls for 32 yards on four targets. White, who has been inactive for half the season, came up big with a 22-yard catch on third down in the first quarter. With Miller and Gabriel’s status still up in the air, that means both guys might have to take their games to another level in the post season.
Every week I say this, but I have no problem saying it again. The Bears defense is outstanding, and they showed it once again in Minnesota. The defense set the tone on Sunday. They held Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense to four 3 and outs. Like they’ve done most of the season, the Bears defense never gave Cousins a chance to get settled. They sacked him 4 times on the afternoon. Cousins was 20-of-33 for 132 yards with a touchdown and a passer rating of 79.4. Khalil Mack didn’t have a monster game, but he was effective. Akiem Hicks was a terror for the Viking offense. He had 1.5 sacks, two QB hits and a tackle for loss. His presence was felt even more in holding Dalvin Cook to 39 yards rushing. I’ll say this: The Bears defense is ready for the post season. I feel they have another level that they haven’t even tapped into yet.
Well, we are here guys! The playoffs start Sunday as Philly comes to town. This won’t be an easy contest, but that’s to be expected at this point in the season. The Bears will have to be a more disciplined team this upcoming Sunday. Their 11 penalties for 102 yards won’t cut it if they want to keep their dream season alive. This matchup is so interesting. Philly has the experience being the defending champs. The Bears on the other hand, are ready for whatever crosses their path. They have proven a lot of people wrong this season. The Bears have also been very successful at Soldier Field, showing teams they better come ready to play. Of course, some credit goes to the loyal Bear fans who have shown up every week. If you’re there this week, make sure to be extra loud. Both teams come in to the game with momentum, but I have to side with the Bears because of their defense. No one ever gave the Bears a chance coming into this season and now look where this team is at. This team isn’t satisfied with just getting to the playoffs, they believe their destiny is to be the last team standing in the NFC. I’ve said this week after week, this is a special team and why not us this season, right? Well the Bears have another chance to be special. Their next test is Sunday at 3:40pm down by the lakefront. I have a feeling we will have a few more pressers in the new year. #Beardown