Sunday night at Soldier Field had a different kind of feel to it. This was the most hyped game that I’ve covered since becoming a member of the Chicago media. The vibe was unreal from the moment I stepped into the stadium at gate 13. My one question this week was: How would the Bears perform on the national scene? The Bears answered my question by beating a good Vikings team 25-20. It wasn’t easy or pretty, but W’s all look the same in the win column. I was hoping for an instant classic, but I really wanted to see Matt Nagy’s squad beat another divisional foe and a team with a winning record. They accomplished that and now are 7-3 on the season and atop the NFC North standings while extending their winning streak to 4 games. Not bad at all. There’s a lot to be excited about, Bears fans. Even though the Bears walked away with the win, they still have some things to clean up. Let’s jump into some of my takeaways from Sunday night’s contest.
Can we please start with the Bears defense? They deserve a lot of credit for this win. The defense showed up and held their own against a good offense. If the nation didn’t know the Bears defense before Sunday night, I know they do now. Khalil Mack and the boys are fun to watch. But to watch them live is a whole other story. Vic Fangio’s unit came out and made a statement against the Vikings. The Bears defense held Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook to just 9 carries for 12 yards on the ground. Once again, it was the Mack show. Since coming back from the ankle injury, Mack picked up where he left off. He affects every single play. Early in the contest, Mack would strip the ball out of Vikings running back Cook’s hands and then recover the fumble. That play says it all about how dominant Mack is. Mack has 5 forced fumbles on the season and, as unbelievable Mack is, his running mate Akiem Hicks showed how much of a driving force he is on the Bears defense. He could be one of the hardest people to block in the game and the Vikings experienced that, not being able to block him consistently. Organizations pray and wish to have two guys like Mack and Hicks. The reason why I have so much respect for both guys is offensive coordinators game plan for guys like them and they still produce. Both guys recorded sacks on the evening. Mack is in that conversation for early defensive MVP voting and Hicks was left out of the Pro Bowl last season, but I have a tough time thinking he misses out this year.
Takeaways have become a common theme with this Bears defense. So far, this season, the Bears defense has 24 total with 18 of them being interceptions. The Bears got 2 more of those versus the Vikings. Safety Eddie Jackson’s Pick 6 in the 4th quarter was a big-time play. If there is one player that has grown from last season, it’s been E-Jack. The young man has had a productive 2nd year racking up 3 interceptions and 2 touchdowns. From the sound of his teammates, Jackson isn’t just balling on the field but he’s also a leader in the locker room. Chicago: After a revolving door at the safety position for years, we finally got one, and he still has so much more potential.
Remember Mitchell Trubisky’s first career start? It was October 9th of last season against the Vikings. The 2nd year QB has grown and evolved since then. Still, there’s a lot more room to grow for the young QB. After last week’s career performance against the Lions, Trubisky reverted back to the up and down QB that we’ve seen at times this season. Trubisky finished his night going 20-of-31 for 160 yards, 1 passing touchdown, and a passer rating of 61.9. I knew that Sunday night would be a challenge going up against a good Vikings defense. The confidence that I saw last week wasn’t there on Sunday night. At times he seemed hesitant with his reads and decision making, hence the reason for the two interceptions he threw on the evening. His mistakes didn’t cost the Bears this week, but later in the season they could.
Trubisky once again used his legs to get himself out of trouble and to extend plays and get first downs. Right now, Trubisky’s biggest strength has to be his ability to run. He had 10 carries for 43 yards, his longest being 13 yards. What I love is he is very smart when he runs and is very aware of his surroundings and knows when to get down or out of bounds. Sticking with the running theme, the Bears running backs were challenged by a Vikings defense that hadn’t given up 100 yards to a back all season. The Bears offense combined had 115 yards by halftime. Howard finished with 63 rushing yards, Trubisky with 43 and Tarik Cohen with 27. When you can run the ball, you can control the flow of the game and the clock. I would like to see more of it as the season rolls along.
Leaving out of the locker room late Sunday night, I walked away seeing a team that truly has one heartbeat. Nagy has really changed the culture inside the locker room. Guys believe that they can win every time they step on the field. Did you see how the team reacted when Cody Parkey nailed a 48-yarder at the end of the game? The team rallied around him. That’s what brothers do. When the media and fans took to Twitter last week to vent about his kicking game, the Bears locker room had Parkey’s back. Now let’s be honest. Were there some guys inside the locker room who were upset about his performance last week? Probably so. But they challenged him to be better. I’ve been in a locker room like that. That is just one sign of a special team. This Bears team is real, ladies and gents. Sunday was their toughest test so far this season. But now they have to go back, watch the tape, and move on. The focus is now on their Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit. It won’t be easy, But if they can walk away from these 3 games in 12 days 3-0, that will be a huge accomplishment and set them up for something special for this team at the end of the regular season. Same time next week, Bears fans. #Beardown