The Bears’ 16-6 victory Sunday against the Vikings was one of the most spirited and impressive of coach Matt Nagy’s tenure, and it kept them on pace with the Packers in the NFC North.
They did it despite a handful of significant injuries, the surprise absence of Roquan Smith and an early departure by Mitch Trubisky. Here’s what the film showed about how they did it:
Daniel’s sharp game
Chase Daniel was sharper than what the Bears had been getting from Trubisky, and the offense didn’t change much.
Of his 30 passes, 25 were to targets within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Daniel cleaned up on those, completing 18 for 107 yards. Many of his passes were perfect or close to it.
When he closed the opening drive with a touchdown pass to Tarik Cohen, he led him toward the left sideline to keep him away from linebacker Anthony Barr and create enough space for him to race into the end zone.
A few plays before that, Daniel threw one 28 yards in the air to Allen Robinson’s back shoulder near the left sideline for a 25-yard catch that got the Bears to first-and-goal.
Daniel fired another laser to Robinson early in the second quarter, zipping it to the exact spot where Robinson could get up for the catch without cornerback Xavier Rhodes having a chance at it.
Mack the mauler
Nagy likes to say of Khalil Mack that when he sacks the quarterback, ‘‘he sacks the football.’’ Rarely does one player make this much of a difference on defense, but Mack continues to do it for the Bears.
On the Vikings’ first play of the second half, Mack went in for the strip-sack on Kirk Cousins and made it look easy. Left tackle Riley Reiff got a hand on Mack’s back and tried to push him down, but Mack ran around him with little trouble and clobbered Cousins’ arm as he looked to throw.
It was his NFL-best 10th forced fumble in the last three seasons, and it gave the Bears the ball in prime scoring range at the Vikings’ 16-yard line.
Offensive line bounces back
With the Bears missing right guard Kyle Long, then losing backup Ted Larsen, they turned to swing tackle Rashaad Coward at that spot. The shuffling didn’t bother them, and the unit played one of its better games of the season.
Before the final possession, when the game was over and the priority was killing clock, the Bears had only one rush for negative yardage. The only sack the line allowed was a seven-yard loss on Chase Daniel early in the third quarter.
There was nothing overwhelming about the ground game overall, but 72 yards rushing against the Vikings was enough.
David Montgomery took 19 of his 21 carries to the depleted right side and averaged 2.3 yards per attempt. His best run was behind left tackle Charles Leno in the third quarter, when he took a draw play for seven yards. Leno and Anthony Miller came through with strong blocks to make that happen.
Wims gets going
Receiver Javon Wims went from fighting for a roster spot in a crowded position group during the preseason to putting up a career day against the Vikings. He caught four passes for 56 yards, including a 37-yard pickup in the third quarter.
Wims put a double move on Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes and got loose on the right sideline. He had so much space that he was able to reach back for an underthrown pass by Chase Daniel and make the catch without any threat by Waynes.
Wims, by the way, recorded the fastest ball-carrying time of any Bears player when he clocked in at 18.2 mph Sunday.
Game on the line
The Vikings’ lone scoring drive came late in the fourth quarter, when Dalvin Cook rushed for a touchdown to cut the Bears’ lead to 16-6 with 3:02 left. The Bears quickly clamped back down and ended any thought of a Vikings comeback.
On the ensuing two-point conversion, which would have made it a one-score game, cornerback Prince Amukamara read the play from the start. Kirk Cousins threw left to Stefon Diggs, but Amukamara met him just as the ball arrived and kept him behind the line scrimmage to help the Bears maintain their decisive lead.
The Vikings’ last possession lasted 13 seconds and gained five yards. Cook couldn’t hang on to a pass as Khalil Mack thundered in, Amukamara was on top of Olabisi Johnson to hold him to a four-yard gain, and backup linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis closed quickly on a one-yard pass to Cook.
Predictably, Cousins never had a chance on fourth down.