By Bryan Dietzler
No one, including this writer, gave the Bears much of a chance to win on Monday night. After all, they were facing one of NFL’s toughest defenses at least statistically. They weren’t getting much out of their running game as of late and quarterback Jay Cutler was back but just how effective could he be? He had missed the last few games and would probably be a little rusty.
In addition, the Bear’s offensive line was missing two of its starters, Kyle Long and Josh Sitton. Just how effective would they be against a very good Vikings pass rush? Cutler was sure to be on his back several times in this game. And the rushing game, which had been suffering on its own for the past couple of games, was sure to be stifled by the vaunted Viking rushing defense. Statistically this looked like a huge mismatch when you looked at the Bears offense compared to the capability of the Vikings defense. Chicago had no chance. Or so it seemed.
But the fortunes fell in the Bears favor on Monday night and they handled the Vikings, with near ease, winning 20-10. There were no breakdowns this time, no leads lost. The team played pretty well as a both the offense and the defense seemed to find a rhythm that they hadn’t been able to find all year. With Cutler back the offense seemed to shine and both the running game and the passing game did very well against the NFL’s number one defense.
Let’s take a quick look at the game and see what the Bears did well, what they didn’t do too well and who shined.
The Bears offense was not flawless on Monday night but it was very good, much better than it had been in any other game this season. Maybe it was because Cutler was at the helm this time. We all know that Jay can throw the ball well, takes chances and sometimes make mistakes. When he is hot, he is good but when is bad, he makes critical mistakes and can lose games. While he had some errant throws and a few misses, he didn’t make the killer miscues that he has made in the past and it went a long way towards helping the Bears win.
Cutler had some misses on a few long passes and tried to force the ball into some tight spaces. He had the famous ball to the helmet throw with Alshon Jeffery. But he played well and proved that he can win games. Hopefully he can stay healthy because the Bears really need him the rest of this season.
The wide receivers had a pretty decent night, especially Jeffery. He finally got his first touchdown of the season and proved that he is Cutler’s favorite target in the red zone. Tight end Zach Miller had some great catch and runs and Jordan Howard was a very effective receiver out of the backfield. The other guys didn’t have too many opportunities but the passing game was effective with the guys Cutler got the ball too.
Speaking of Howard, he had an awesome night running the football. After being suppressed for a couple games, he had a breakout night and proved that he is the guy that should get the ball more often (at the running back position). Consider him the starter from this point forward. The Bears do have some good backups but Howard is the main guy in that group.
As previously mentioned the Bear’s offensive line was missing starters Sitton and Long. You would have thought that protecting Cutler and opening up holes in the running game would have been impossible. It turns out it wasn’t. The offensive line played very well and allowed just one sack the entire game (from a defense that was getting several sacks a game on average). It was an outstanding effort by a patchwork unit.
Overall, the Bear’s offense played a very strong game against the best defense in the NFL. They piled up the yards and made the Vikings look very beatable. The Bears had not shown nor put forth that kind of effort in any other game all season. And what of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains? He called a near perfect game and this was his best effort yet. Hopefully there will be many more to come.
Chicago’s defense did not crack like it has in previous games. They helped get the lead and keep the lead holding the Vikings offense to just ten points. The pass rush got the best of a less than stellar Vikings offensive line, the linebackers were active making a lot of plays and the usual suspect secondary was actually pretty good. You have to give some credit the Vikings offense, they are not a top tier unit, but the Bears defense has bent to less than stellar offenses in the past. In this game they were on target throughout.
Akeem Hicks was the star of the defensive line. He had two sacks to lead the line. He also got a lot pressure on Sam Bradford. The line was active stopping the run on the evening rendering the Vikings rushing attack non-existent. This was the defensive line’s best game of the year so far.
The linebackers played even better than they have all season and that is thanks to the play of their outside linebackers. Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee (each with a sack) had very good games and showed their ability to make a difference. Jerrell Freeman has been the best out of the bunch this year and his stop on third and short, muscling the ball carrier backwards to avoid a first down, was huge. The backups even played well. This is truly the best group of players on the team and it shows game in and game out.
The secondary has been a thorn in the Bear’s defensive side all season and they have cost the Bears games. This unit played much better than they have all season but they do have some work to do to in order to shore things up. Tracy Porter had a strong “under the radar” game and did a great job on Stefon Diggs. When he wasn’t on Diggs, Diggs had some success but when Porter was covering him, he shut him down. Porter is one of the Bears best players and deserves some better recognition.
Punter Pat O’Donnell continues struggle a bit as he shanked one punt. He did put the Vikings back behind the 20 yard line though. He has been a little bit of a disappointment. Connor Barth was on target and that was great for the Bears. He struggled early in the season but has gotten better and looks like he can be counted on. Return teams were hurting with the absence of Eddie Royal and hopefully he will be back soon. Coverage units were good.
The coaching staff put together a pretty solid game plan. The offense was called very well and this was the best offensive effort of the season. Loggains made wise choices and called the perfect plays at the perfect times. He did have someone that could execute the offense well this time (Hoyer wasn’t willing to take risks or the coaching staff wasn’t willing to take risks with Hoyer) so that helped. The running game was on target as well. This was a good offensive effort all the way around.
The defense did enough to win the game. Fangio finally got some good execution out of his top players and no one had a critical breakdown. General Manager Ryan Pace’s talent acquisition ability is starting to pay dividends. The defense shows the most evidence of where this team is going in the right direction.
Chicago has a bye week this coming week and will return on November 13th to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa. The Bucs aren’t having the greatest season either and (right now) are just one game better than the Bears. This is a very winnable game for Chicago.
A full preview of that game will be coming soon.
ROSTER MOVE: The Bears made a move on Wednesday the 2nd of November, signing offensive lineman William Poehls to the practice squad. They waived another offensive lineman, Arturo Uzdavinis from the practice squad to make room for Poehls.
Poehls played his college ball at Montana. The 6’8” 334 pound lineman played guard in college and that is the positon he potentially projects to with the Bears. He came into the league in 2014 and has been with the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills. Poehls is originally from Chandler, Arizona.