I don’t know if I’d call it “shocking the world” but I will say the Chicago Bears indeed “surprised” NFL fans by beating the Minnesota Vikings 20-10 on Monday Night Football. The Bears moved to 2-6 as they head into their midseason bye week while the Vikings dropped to 5-2 after losing two in a row.
Soldier Field was in a festive mood on Halloween as the crowd was all dressed up in crazy costumes and cheering wildly for their beloved Bears. The general mood seemed to be hopeful, with Chicago’s 1-6 record “out-of-mind” for the time being. Last week I predicted the Vikings would win 19-12 in a low scoring game in which each team would record a safety. Well, I was wrong about the safeties and the final score being in favor of Minnesota. However, I was right about some other predictions. Let’s recap what I wrote last Thursday in (http://www.footballnation.com/articles/can-the-bears-shock-the-vikings-on-monday-night-football) “Can the Bears Shock the Vikings on Monday Night Football?!?”:
- PREDICTION #1: “Expect the Bears improving pass rush to record at least a couple of sacks from either #97 Willie Young, #94 Leonard Floyd, or maybe even #92 Pernell McPhee, who will be playing in his 2nd game back from a knee injury. I’ll go on record and say the Bears will record a minimum of 3 sacks.”
- RESULT: Inspired by playing in front of Bears Hall of Fame Legends Dick Butkus, Dan Hampton, and Richard Dent who were being honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Halftime, Chicago slammed Minnesota’s Offensive Line all night long! The Bears recorded 5 sacks of Vikings QB Sam Bradford. #96 Akiem Hicks led the way with 2 sacks while Floyd, McPhee, and #90 Cornelius Washington each had 1 sack. DC Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense is really starting to work! The Bears have made infinite progress over the last season and a half. Way to go Front Seven!
- PREDICTION #2: “Cutler will be gunslinging in this one, trying to get the ball to #17 Alshon Jeffery, something that Hoyer and Barkley couldn’t do. Having said that, I expect Vikings star FS #22 Harrison Smith to intercept Cutler.”
- RESULT #2: #6 Jay Cutler played an excellent game. He was 20-31 for 252 yards with 1 TD and 0 Interceptions or turnovers. His rating was 100.5. He was only sacked once and looked as comfortable as a vampire in Transylvania. A couple of his early throws weren’t great spirals, making us wonder if his thumb was fully healed but after a while I didn’t notice any more wounded duck passes so he seemingly settled in and gained confidence in his arm and thumb once again. He indeed targeted #17 Alshon Jeffery 8 times, second only to #86 TE Zach Miller’s 10 targets. Jeffery caught 4 balls for 63 yards and a TOUCHDOWN, his first of the season! That’s hard to believe. Now in his fifth season, Jeffery has scored 3, 7, 10, and 4 TD’s in his first four seasons. The fact that he finally scored in ’16 shows how inept the Bears red zone offense has been in the first half of this schedule, mainly with #2 Brian Hoyer leading the team for the majority of games so far. Now that Cutler is back, look for Jeffery to start being a bigger part of the offense, especially in the red zone. Ohhh, and I’m happy to say I was wrong about Vikings S #22 Harrison Smith intercepting Cutler.
- PREDICTION #3: “Expect the Vikings to be focused and take advantage of a young Bears team. However, it wouldn’t shock me if the Bears give the Vikes a run for their money……This matchup is closer than people may think if they just look at the standings. I almost want to predict an upset but I just can’t pull the trigger. I’ll pick Minnesota, by a strange score. Vikings are favored by 5.5 points. Take them with the points. Vikes win by 7.”
- RESULT #3: The Bears not only gave “the Vikes a run for their money”, they dominated this game! The final score was Bears 20 Vikings 10 but it was almost 20-3 as Minnesota didn’t punch one into the end zone until there was just 5:41 left in the game. If needed, Chicago’s offense could have put up more points than 20 but they didn’t need to on this night. The second half was mainly dominated by both Bears lines. The running game produced 158 yards on 29 carries for a 5.4 yards per rush average. The Bears won in Total Yards 403-258. Meanwhile, the Vikings offense could only rush for 57 yards on 18 carries. They could only pass for 201 yards on 37 attempts (4.8 avg). This was surprising domination for a 1-6 team against the NFC North leading Vikings who looked like a physically, and mentally, beaten up squad. I wish I had gone with my gut and predicted a Bears victory but the numbers just couldn’t back up my strange feeling of a Bears upset. Next time, go with your gut!
#96 Akiem Hicks
Hicks is huge, and so were his stats on Halloween. He had 4 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 pass deflection. He used his size to bull rush Vikings C #61 Joe Berger and it worked, resulting in a tight pocket for Bradford. This allowed other Bears pass rushers to crush Bradford when he had nowhere to go….but down! PS: Open Letter to Akiem……you gotta lose that sack dance…..it’s horrible!
#92 Pernell McPhee
McPhee’s stats weren’t gigantic but often with Defensive Linemen they won’t be. However, his return to the lineup starting last week has re-invigorated Chicago’s pass rush. In this game, we could see McPhee making a difference right away. He had 1 sack and 4 QB hits. There’s something about McPhee. He seems to make an impact when he’s in the lineup. He did last year and he’s doing it again now. If he can stay healthy, “Katie bar the door!”
#94 Leonard Floyd
It is starting to become obvious that Floyd is going to be a star!!! This rookie shows athleticism each and every week, resulting in a fierce pass rush. He had 2 tackles and 1 sack. Not only can Floyd rush the passer but I’m sure DC Vic Fangio has fun moving Floyd around because his skills are such that he can cover receivers and even defend against the run. There was a play last night that made me smile. Floyd jumped high to bat down a pass. He missed it, but then he had the athleticism to recover and chase down the receiver, making the tackle. It was simply impressive. Watch out for Floyd! He is a beast already and will be a Pro Bowler someday with more strength and experience.
QB Jay Cutler & OC Dowell Loggains
Loggains called a good game on Monday night. He seemed to do extra homework on the Vikings with the longer than normal prep time and it worked. The offense seemed to run smoother than at any time this season. You could see the difference between Cutler and the backups in his arm strength and his command of the offense. He pushed it downfield more than Hoyer did. For example, he hit Jeffery deep on the right sideline for a 34 yard gain. I don’t think Hoyer threw it 34 yards downfield all season.
Loggains, together along with Cutler’s execution, kept the #1 defense in the NFL on its heels with screen passes, downhill running plays, and even draws. Has Minnesota given up 158 rushing yards in a game this season? Not even close. Their previous high rushing yards allowed was 105 to Carolina. In fact, this is only the third time in 7 games that the Vikings have allowed 100 team rushing yards. The Bears blew this record out of the water, and they did it while missing both starting OG’s Josh Sitton and Chris Long. Surprising and crazy! Cutler even seemed to acknowledge Loggains’ play calls by giving the “thumbs up” signal toward the press box where Loggains sat.
Player of the Game:
#24 Jordan Howard – Howard rushed for 153 yards on 26 carries, both career highs. He also caught 4 passes (on 4 targets) for 49 yards. His 202 total yards are eye-opening in what has been called a Running Back position competition between Howard, #33 Jeremy Langford, and #25 Ka’Deem Carey. We can call that competition over, at least for now.
Overall, the Bears proved a lot to themselves, the fans, and even the rest of the NFL. They have not given up. Their talent level doesn’t look so bad now that a few injured starters have returned. Also, the depth provided by young players getting more experience in Coach John Fox’s system has improved the overall team psyche as well. And you can’t discount the confidence earned by having your starting QB returning and winning a big home game on national TV.
The Bears head into the midseason bye week at 2-6. It might be too late to make the playoffs, as the Bears would most likely have to win all 8 remaining games to finish at 10-6. However, the building blocks are starting to come into focus. The rest of the 2016 season should be interesting if nothing else. The next game is Sunday, November 13 at Tampa Bay. Can the Bears continue what they started on Monday night? Look for my preview of that game on Thursday, November 10.