Game vs. Vikings a measuring stick for Bears’ offense
When the Bears played the Vikings at Soldier Field in November, Nick Foles started at QB, David Montgomery was out and the offensive line was struggling.
Bears quarterback Nick Foles — remember him? — came inches away from being a hero against the Vikings on Nov. 16 at Soldier Field.
With an opportunity to make the most of his worst game with the Bears, on a fourth-and-five from the Vikings’ 35-yard line with the Bears trailing 19-13, Foles stepped up in the pocket and lofted a pass downfield that went off receiver Anthony Miller’s fingertips inside the 5.
A completion would have put the Bears near the goal line with a golden chance for a touchdown that likely would have won the game. The Bears would have been 6-4 heading into their bye week. Foles likely would not have been passing with less than a minute to go and likely would not have suffered a hip injury when he was sacked by Ifeadi Odenigbo with 37 seconds left.
Foles likely would have been the starter after the bye behind a revamped line of Charles Leno at left tackle, Cody Whitehair at left guard, Sam Mustipher at center, Alex Bars at right guard and Germain Ifedi at right tackle. And in an offense that is making better use of rookie tight end Cole Kmet, who had six catches for 64 yards and a touchdown in Foles’ five starts but has nine catches for 78 yards and a touchdown in the last two games with Mitch Trubisky. And with Bill Lazor not in his first game calling plays in coach Matt Nagy’s offense.
Be that as it may, the Bears’ game against the Vikings on Sunday gives Trubisky and the offense the best chance yet to see just how far they have come. In the first game against the Vikings, the Bears gained only 149 yards, their fewest in three seasons under Nagy. Their only touchdown came on Cordarrelle Patterson’s 104-yard kickoff return to open the second half.
It marked the second time in four games the offense was outscored by another unit after the defense provided the only touchdown in a 24-10 loss to the Rams on Oct. 26. It was a low point for Foles, who essentially lost his job, and the offense, which dropped to 31st in the NFL in total yards and scoring.
With the Vikings the first common opponent Foles and Trubisky will have started against, the game will add some texture to the quarterback debate. It’s not a totally fair comparison. A lot of other changes have been made since then. And running back David Montgomery — a key element in the three-game resurgence of the offense under Trubisky, with 96 yards per game and 7.4 yards per carry — didn’t play in the first game against the Vikings.
Trubisky has more elements going his way than Foles did, so he should fare better against a defense that ranks 22nd in total yards allowed, 26th in passing yards allowed and 25th in sacks per pass play.
But if the Packers end up in coast mode in Week 17, this might be the best chance to see just how far Trubisky and the offense have come this season.
‘‘I hope so,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘We go back to those weeks in the middle of the season — for a lot of different reasons, we just were struggling in different areas. So right now, we’re hoping that we found something . . . that offensively you feel good about, and now you get a second chance to play a good football team. That’s all we can ask for. We feel like we’re in a good place, and we’ve gotta be able to do it on Sunday.’’