- Matt Nagy’s team is re-energized, having won four straight, and has a strong grip on the NFC North lead after its latest win over Minnesota.
CHICAGO — Three thoughts off the Bears’ 25–20 victory over the Vikings in Chicago on Sunday Night Football...
WHERE DEFENSE STILL MATTERS
While the rest of the league’s top teams are regularly scoring 40-plus points, Chicago is proof that defense still matters. The Bears defense picked off Vikings QB Kirk Cousins twice, as outside linebacker Khalil Mack had his fifth forced fumble of the season (Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff is not going to want to watch the film of this game). Mack was a force throughout the whole game matched up opposite Reiff, as he regularly steamrolled Reiff en route to Cousins, check out this brutal one-arm stab move.
The Bears defense, which leads the league with 18 interceptions this season, made a statement in the first half by limiting the Vikings to just 77 yards of total offense, compared to Chicago’s 202 yards. Minnesota had a trio of three-and-outs on their first four possessions and despite having so many weapons on offense, couldn’t seem to get anything going on offense. They also failed to score off of two of three Chicago turnovers, and didn’t score their first touchdown until less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Vikings have struggled with their ground game all season, and the Bears defense limited Minnesota to 22 yards rushing as a team.
Naturally, the play that decided the game was a defensive touchdown for Chicago, their fifth of the season. With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Vikings were still holding on, trailing by eight points. Deep in Vikings territory, Cousins threw to receiver Laquon Treadwell on first down of a drive that would be crucial if the Vikings were to stay in the game. Safety Eddie Jackson read Treadwell’s route perfectly, and plucked Cousins pass from above Treadwell’s head. He ran it back 27 yards into the end zone to send the Bears up 22–6.
Bears coach Matt Nagy recognizes that his offense doesn’t consistently turn up the way his defense does, and in games like Sunday night’s does just what it needs to survive. “I think that the offense did enough,” he said post-game. Chicago’s offense did have one noteworthy statline. Against a Vikings defense that is the top third-down defense in the league, the Bears converted 50%.
BEARS GO TWO-FOR-TWO ON TWO-POINT CONVERSIONS
It’s not every day an NFL team goes for two after taking a 9–0 lead, but that’s what Nagy did on Sunday Night Football in Chicago. And Nagy didn’t stop there; he made the decision to go for two points again after Eddie Jackson’s interception—he read Laquon Treadwell’s route perfectly and snatched a ball from Cousins at the Bears 26-yard-line for a pick-six—to put the Bears up 20–6. Mitchell Trubisky succeeded on both two-point conversion attempts, something that hasn’t happened to the Bears since 2014, when Jay Cutler completed two two-point conversions in a single game against the Patriots. And the second two point conversion was even more surprising because Trubisky's target was tight end Adam Shaheen, who was playing his first game this season after being activated off IR.
In his first season as head coach, Nagy has only gone for two once before Sunday, a successful conversion last week against the Lions—small sample size, but a perfect record. Watch out, future Bears opponents, this could be the beginning of a streak. Nagy’s unconventional choices paid off because the Vikings offense came within five points, 25–20.
SMILE, YOU’RE IN FIRST PLACE
There’s a new energy in Chicago, and the Bears really look and feel like they’re having fun. Such is the life of a team that beat a division rival to establish a more comfortable lead in the division.
Example 1: During the game, a fan hung a banner in the northwest end zone that displayed a picture of the defense smiling while posing for a picture on the sideline after a win earlier this season. The banner read, SMILE, YOU’RE IN FIRST PLACE!
Example 2: Kicker Cody Parkey boinked four kicks off the uprights last week, so when he made his first field goal attempt of this week, the crowd erupted, cheering louder than I’ve ever heard for a made field goal that did not decide a game.
Example 3: Receiver Anthony Miller scored a touchdown, sat down in the endzone and started to row an imaginary boat. Several teammates lined up in front and behind him in the boat, furiously rowing in sync to celebrate the score.
Example 4: After safety Eddie Jackson picked off Cousins, his defensive teammates gathered in front of him, facing him. Jackson gestured like an orchestra conductor while his teammates played on phantom instruments, and hen they all took a dramatic bow.
NBC’s Michele Tafoya reported an interesting detail during Sunday’s game. Nagy has the words BE YOU written in capital letters on his laminated play sheet each week, and Tafoya explained that wound up on his playsheet because it was his son’s advice to him when he was interviewing for the Bears head coaching job. Nagy’s son told him, “Dad, just be you.” Nagy is staying true to that wisdom by being himself, and these Bears are unrecognizable because of it.