Grading Bears’ offense, defense in 29-22 loss vs. Vikings originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Things got ugly early for the Bears on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings jumped out to a 21-3 and looked like they were about to bludgeon the Bears so bad the NFL would be forced to hand Chicago the No. 1 overall pick to apologize for the embarrassment.
But the Bears didn’t quit. Justin Fields and the offense reeled off 19 unanswered points to take a 22-21 lead in the fourth quarter.
They couldn’t finish the deal, though.
Kirk Cousins led the Vikings on a 17-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to retake the lead, and cornerback Cam Dantzler stripped Ihmir Smith-Marsette with 1:12 remaining to put the finishing touches on a 29-22 Vikings win.
The Bears showed heart and fight. After Cousins completed 17 straight passes to start the game, it looked like the Bears had “NFL joke” written all over them. That wasn’t the case Sunday.
The Bears didn’t win, but they showed signs of marked improvement on both sides of the ball.
Thus, we deliver a feel-good report card after a tough-luck loss in Minnesota:
Fields started the game 3-for-8, and it looked like we were headed for another stinker. Another week talking about wasted potential, the Bears curse, and questioning why general manager Ryan Poles didn’t address the offensive line or skill positions more in the offseason.
But Fields shook off the slow start and played what head coach Matt Eberflus called the best football of his career in the second half.
After halftime, Fields went 12-for-13 for 135 yards and a touchdown in the second half. He also rushed for 36 yards and had a 53-yard touchdown run nullified by an illegal block in the back by Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
Fields admitted after the game it was the most comfortable he has felt in his NFL career. He rode the pocket well, went through his progressions quickly, and made several impressive plays to keep the chains moving in the second half.
This was far and away the best game Justin Fields has played this season and perhaps in his young career.
Given how bad the Vikings’ run defense had been to start the season, the prevailing thought entering Sunday’s game was that the Bears would find success on the ground.
That didn’t happen.
Running back David Montgomery returned after a one-game absence, but he only rushed for 20 yards on 12 carries. The fourth-year running back did four passes for 62 yards, though. Fields led the Bears in rushing with 47 yards.
As a team, the Bears averaged 3.3 yards per rush. Their longest run was 12 yards.
The vaunted run game was nowhere to be found Sunday in Minnesota.
Cousins opened the game 17-for-17. Justin Jefferson caught 12 passes for 154 yards.
There really isn’t a lot more to say.
The Bears’ pass rush was non-existent in the first half, as it looked like the Vikings were going to put a 50 burger on them.
But Eberflus and his staff adjusted, and the Bears’ defense only allowed 8 points in the second half. That’s great, but it doesn’t erase the first 18 minutes of the game.
It was ugly. But it could have been worse.
After getting gashed by Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones in Week 4, it was fair to assume Dalvin Cook would run all over the Bears on Sunday.
Cook had a solid day, but the Bears did a much better job of reading their keys and wrapping up.
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Cook finished the day with 94 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. The Vikings, as a team, only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. If you take out Cousins’ four rushes for 4 yards, that number goes to 4.1.
Still, it wasn’t a bad effort from the much-maligned run defense.
Given the expectations coming into the game, it’s a passing grade.
It was a solid afternoon for Richard Hightower’s unit.
Cairo Santos went three-for-three on field goals, Trent Gill averaged 56.0 yards per punt, and the Bears blocked a 51-yard field goal attempt by Greg Joseph in the third quarter.
They didn’t recover the surprise onside kick in the third quarter, but otherwise, there are no blemishes on the card.
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