This will be another big game for Minnesota.
Even though they got off to a great start and still have a decent record at 5-4, I’ve been saying all year that the Bears are one of the worst teams in football. Wins against the Lions in week 1 and Falcons in week 3 were total gifts on their road to starting 3-0. Literally. Both wins should’ve come with a bow. Detroit was up by three touchdowns in the 4th quarter and Atlanta was up 26-10 with 7 minutes to go. They also were fortunate enough to play Tampa Bay on a short week. On a Thursday night in week 5 they eked out a 20-19 victory when Tom Brady finally showed signs of aging and forgot what down it was on the games final play.
The Bears are currently in the midst of a three game losing streak, which speaks a heck of a lot more to the team they appear to be in reality than the three wins in a row did to start the season.
Their quarterback situation is one of the worst in the league. Both in talent, stability, and long term money committed to the position.
They don’t have a single player on offense that opposing teams fear or specifically have to game plan for.
The head coach and his play calling have come under fire plenty from fans and the media in the Windy City this season. Plenty of those voices have carried over from last year.
The growth and progress they supposedly made going 12-4 in 2018 is gone. So much so it almost seems like it never happened.
The only problem for Vikings fans: The Bears defense is still taking the field.
Since acquiring Khalil Mack in 2018 the Bears are 4-0 against Minnesota, and the games have been ugly from a Vikings vantage point. One of those games was last year’s season ender that showcased Sean Mannion, Mike Boone, and Alexander Hollins, among others, while the Vikings rested their starters for the playoffs. If you take that game out of the equation, Dalvin Cook has rushed for 12, 39, and 35 yards in the last three Bears-Vikings contests.
Cousins hasn’t been much better. He’s been responsible for 4 turnovers and has been sacked a total of 12 times in those three games. If you recall last years game against Chicago was when he felt the weight of the world crashing down on him. And I’m not just talking about Bear defenders. Stefon Diggs being unhappy and ultimately traded started during this game and lingered throughout the season. Adam Thielen and Cousins appeared to have some issues on the sideline during the game which caused the QB to apologize to his receiver on Kirk’s podcast during the week after the game. (Kirk Cousins has a podcast. That has to be the most uninteresting thing in the world.) Tack on his head coach and the Minnesota media being all over him for his performance, and you’ve basically summed up all three of Cousins’s games against Chicago since arriving in the Twin Cities.
The common denominator Cook and Cousins share in their rough experiences against the Bears is the play of their offensive line.
There it is.
I waited several paragraphs to get to the lead about what’s gonna decide the winner and loser of this game. (Other than turnover margin of course.)
The Vikings offensive line has performed well the last two weeks, a big reason why Dalvin Cook, and the team, has been so successful. But the Packers and Lions aren’t the Bears defensively. Even though Chicago may have regressed this year on both sides of the ball, their defense is still in the top 10 in most major categories, including points allowed, yards per game, and passing yards allowed.
Where they fall a little bit off the pace is in rushing yards allowed per game. They rank 15th in the league and give up around 117 yards per game.
Cook is playing absolutely out of his mind right now, and Cousins seems to understand the winning formula of the last two weeks is him not making mistakes, taking care of the football, and making plays when needed without forcing it.
If the offensive line can be just good enough this week…just a little better than they were last year…a little more competitive…hold blocks for just a little longer…then Minnesota should win. Honestly, it’s that simple. If Cook and Cousins can’t break through against Chicago’s defense this week, it’s conceivable that it may never happen for the tandem.
Cousins needs that extra half second on play action. Cook needs his blocks held for just a moment longer. If the line can achieve both of those things there’s no reason Cook can’t total around 80-100 rushing yards and Cousins can’t pick up the slack in the passing game. But if the Bears set the tone early, which they’ve been known to do against Minnesota, especially at Soldier Field, and have Cousins running for his life, Cook getting slowed in the backfield, and the offensive line getting pancaked all over the place, then Chicago will win…no matter what offensive unit they throw out there.
There are some other factors that will possibly play a role in this game as well. But they’re not nearly as marginal as winning the turnover battle and/or the Vikings O-line performance.
One of those things is the Bears play selection.
No matter who the Bears start at quarterback this week, he should look around and feel confident. If I’m coaching the Bears Monday night I’m basically telling my running backs to stay home. I’m passing every single down, never forcing a throw, and taking what the Vikings secondary gives me…which is usually plenty of the field. There’s no rule in the NFL that says you have to run the ball a certain amount of times. Every time Green Bay and Detroit ran it (especially the Packers) in the last two games I stood up and clapped. It’s a total wasted play. Every time a team turns around to hand-off against the Vikings they literally forfeit an opportunity to score. These cruel, but true, statements have nothing to do with the effort Minnesota’s secondary gives, it’s just the reality of the situation. The fact is they’re injured, young, and lack too much talent to keep up with offenses right now.
That’s why I’m surprised at what they’ve been able to do the last two weeks. And I’m not the only one…
Head Coach Mike Zimmer said today in his press conference that he told his coaches they might be doing some of the best coaching they’ve ever done and “we’re still giving up 400 yards per game.”
It’s amazing. I don’t know how he’s holding it together so well this year on the defensive side of the ball.
Having said all that I don’t believe the Bears will have much discipline on offense to find what works and stick with it. They haven’t shown they can do that all season. I don’t think they know what a disciplined offensive attack, or sticking to a game plan, looks like.
The bottom line is, if both teams take care of the football (big if), the game will come down to the Bears defense versus the Vikings offensive line and protection scheme. If the Bears dominate that matchup, they’ll win the game. If the Vikings survive it, they’ll improve to 4-5.
I’m so glad I’m not a Bears fan. The most boring team to watch in football resides in Chicago. I hate them. Predicting this game with my heart puts the score somewhere near “38-7 and I hate those assholes” with my analysis. Predicting the winner with my head, and some sort of logic, will take longer into the week to muster up.
My official prediction will come out in a few days. Stay tuned.