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Snap judgment: Bears finally solving puzzles with personnel on offense, defense

Every week, the Chicago Sun-Times analyzes snap counts to see what the Bears are thinking personnel-wise. This one covers their 33-27 win over the Vikings.

Kmet (85) played every snap and Montgomery (32) was on the field for 88% of them against the Vikings.
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The Bears appears to be settling into the right personnel throughout their offense and defense. Defensively, the moves have mostly been because of injuries, and offensively, it just took far too long to figure out.

One of the changes offensively has been an increased role for rookie tight end Cole Kmet, and the Bears took that to another level in their 33-27 win over the Vikings on Sunday. Kmet played every offensive snap, the first time any tight end has done that for the Bears this season, and they used Jimmy Graham on 55% of the plays.

They each had two catches — Graham for 25 yards and Kmet for 12 — but keeping both of them on the field creates uncertainty for the opposing offense. That’s especially true with Kmet as he’s starting to show he can be a blocker and receiver.

Here’s a look at a few other areas when it came to playing time against the Vikings:

Cornerback switches

It’s not ideal for the Bears to go into a game without Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine, and fifth-round pick Kindle Vildor isn’t an NFL starter at this point.

The Bears rode Kyle Fuller (99%) and backup Duke Shelley (97%) for most of the game. Eventually, they pulled back on Vildor (44%) and went with backup safety DeAndre Houston-Carson (19%). Shelley played some on the outside in Johnson’s place, and Houston-Carson filled in underneath.

If the Bears get Johnson back from a shoulder injury against the Jaguars on Sunday, Shelley would likely return to the nickel role if Skrine (concussion) remains out. Given that this is the sixth confirmed concussion of Skrine’s career, it’s unknown whether the Bears would play him again this season.

Ground game

One of the biggest differences between the Bears’ Week 10 disaster against the Vikings and their win Sunday was the return of running back David Montgomery. He played 88% of the snaps, got 32 carries for 146 yards and was targeted twice (one catch for 16 yards).

Having Montgomery back in his role allows the Bears to be more opportunistic with fellow running back Cordarrelle Patterson. In the first game against the Vikings, he played 50% of the snaps, got 12 carries and was targeted twice. This time, he played just 9% of the snaps and got one carry and one target.

Miller drops out

Wide receiver Anthony Miller has been losing playing time ever since rookie Darnell Mooney showed up. The Bears have solidified a rotation in which Allen Robinson and Mooney are on the field the majority of the game, while Miller pops in occasionally.

Miller played just 25% of the snaps Sunday, which was his lowest since the 2019 season opener. That was partly a result of using Kmet and Graham, too.

He actually played fewer snaps than Javon Wims, though. Robinson was at 89%, followed by Mooney (83%), Wims (33%), Miller and Riley Ridley (5%).

Defensive front forms

The Bears’ defensive line hinges on Akiem Hicks (88% of the snaps) and Bilal Nichols (71%). Even without Eddie Goldman (opt-out) and Roy Robertson-Harris (injured reserve), the defense can survive as long as it still has Hicks and Nichols the majority of the game.

After that, defensive tackle John Jenkins got the most playing time at 50%. Off the bench, the Bears leaned on Brent Urban (35%) and Mario Edwards (18%).

It was a decent day overall for the Bears’ d-line, even with Vikings running back Dalvin Cook going for 132 yards on 24 carries. Hicks and Nichols (one sack) had three quarterback hits each, and Jenkins had one as well. Urban teamed up with Khalil Mack for a sack, too, and had a great pass rush that forced Kirk Cousins to throw incomplete on Minnesota’s fourth-and-one play with two minutes left.