Our Pledge To You

News

Monster mash: Stout Bears defense keys 20-10 upset of Vikings

Jay Cutler returned Monday night to the usual cacophony of national television scrutiny, while Jeremy Langford quietly took his place behind the Bears’ new starting running back.

But someone else made their way back to Soldier Field in the Bears’ 20-10 upset of the Vikings, and on an appropriate night: Monsters.

The Bears played dress-up on Halloween, wearing their “Monsters of the Midway” uniforms, and then did their best impression of a feared defense, allowing a season-low 258 yards.

Until Sam Bradford found Stefon Diggs for a 25-yard score with 5:41 remaining and behind by 17 points, the Bears were on the verge of snapping the NFL’s longest active streak allowing a touchdown: 66-straight games.

Akiem Hicks hurt his foot. (AP)

“We just played a great team and we dominated them,” said outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who recorded his first sack of the season and was credited with four quarterback hurries. “So it’s gotta piss everybody off and say, ‘We shouldn’t lose no more games to teams that we ain’t got no business losing to.’”

The Bears did plenty of that during their 2-6 start. But Monday night gave the defense — and the team — a rare sign of progress entering into their bye.

Against an offensive line called out by their coach last week — Mike Zimmer called the Vikings “soft” after allowing six sacks to the Eagles — the Bears recorded five sacks, tying a season high, and nine quarterback hurries.

“That came out rearing, ready to hit,” said defensive end Akiem Hicks, who had two sacks. “We anticipated that, and I think we countered that effectively.”

Before the fourth-quarter touchdown, the closest the Vikings came to the end zone was third-and-goal at the Bears’ 2 in the final minute of the first half. Hicks sacked Bradford to force a 30-yard Blair Walsh field goal.

That drive was only alive because defensive end Cornelius Washington left the sideline to celebrate McPhee’s third-down sack. The Bears had forced four punts up that point, including three-straight three-and-out possessions in which the Vikings totaled six yards.

Two Connor Barth Field goals and Jordan Howard’s two-yard touchdown run gave the Bears a 13-3 lead at halftime, and Alshon Jeffery’s first score of the season, an 11-yarder five minutes into the third quarter, increased the Bears’ advantage to 20-3.

Cutler went 20-for-31 for 252 yards after missing five-straight games with sprained right thumb ligaments. Howard was a revelation after two subpar games, running 26 times for 153 yards.

But the defense set the tone. That it was against an inconsistent offense — without running back Jerick McKinnon— is worth noting, though the Bears let other flawed offenses thrive in recent weeks. The Packers, without a functioning running back, hung 26 on them. Arrelious Benn’s 51-yard touchdown that beat the Bears the week before was the Jaguars’ longest play of the season — before or since. Needing a touchdown to win the game, the Colts marched 82 yards for one without so much as a third down in the game’s final minutes.

After allowing five fourth-quarter touchdowns during their three-game losing streak, the Bears defense closed out the game Monday night.

“That’s what changed for today,” Hicks said. “We played the entire game rather than a half, rather than 45 minutes.”