Khalil Mack was Khalil Mack. But there was much more to this one than that.
Akiem Hicks was Akiem Hicks. Eddie Jackson was Eddie Jackson. Leonard Floyd was Leonard Floyd. Roquan Smith was Roquan Smith. And Danny Trevathan was Danny Trevathan. And on and on.
While Mack was the catalyst with a huge early takeaway, the Bears’ defense dominated into the fourth quarter in the 25-20 victory over the Vikings. They held the Vikings to 139 yards on 39 plays in taking a 22-6 lead before the Vikings rallied for two desperate touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
“We knew it was going to be tough, and we had that in our minds,” said Jackson. “We had good preparation in practice this week, and it showed in the game. We came out fast, but we still have to keep working on finishing in the fourth quarter.”
Jackson delivered the decisive blow early in the fourth quarter, intercepting a Kirk Cousins pass in front of Laquon Treadwell and returning it 27 yards for a touchdown. With a two-point conversion pass from Mitch Trubisky to Adam Shaheen, the Bears took a 22-6 lead with 8:30 left in the fourth quarter.
“It was a good read,” Jackson said. “They were trying to make some big plays, and [that] was one of their big plays. So I just read the quarterback’s eyes.”
It was the Bears’ fifth defensive touchdown this season.
“That was a huge play,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “We were fighting and clawing a little bit on offense, and there wasn’t a whole lot of rhythm. For him to make that play, it broke it open a little bit. That was huge.
“That’s what our guys have been doing. They’re making plays. They’re playing fast. They’re instincts are great. They’re reading and reacting. And then when they get an opportunity to make a play, they’re making a play. Good stuff.”
Hicks, who had five tackles for loss, set the tone with a huge stop on running back Latavius Murray on third-and-one to force the Vikings to punt on the opening possession of the game.
But the Bears’ defense was it its best when the Vikings threatened the most. With the Vikings on the Bears’ 14-yard line with the Bears leading 3-0 in the first quarter, Mack stopped running back Dalvin Cook for a one-yard loss, punching the ball out and recovering it while underneath a pile to stop the threat.
“He made a play. That’s what he’s been doing since he got there,” Cook said. “Just stuck his hand out there. It was a gift for him.”
When the Vikings reached the Bears’ 32 late in the second quarter, Adrian Amos intercepted a wayward pass by Cousins on an apparent miscommunication to protect a 14-0 lead.
And after safety Anthony Harris’ second interception gave the Vikings possession at the Bears’ 31-yard line, Mack sacked Cousins for a nine-yard loss. The Vikings eventually settled for Dan Bailey’s 36-yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-3 after three quarters.
After Tarik Cohen’s fumble gave the Vikings possession at the Bears’ 29 early in the fourth quarter, Hicks sacked Cousins on third-and-two for an eight-yard loss that again forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal.
“They’ve been playing well all year. They had our number tonight, obviously,” said Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, who had seven receptions for 66 yards. “They’re a good defense, but a lot of times we hurt ourselves.”