The first place Chicago Bears are hot as they roll into a massive primetime matchup with the second place Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field this Sunday night.
Chicago broke a 10-game divisional losing streak by coasting past the Detroit Lions 34-22 last Sunday. The third-straight victory improved the Bears to 6-3 this season, eclipsing the team’s win total from last season and matching the highest amount of wins in each of the last four seasons.
It is key to note that the game was not as close as the final score indicated. Chicago scored the game’s first 26 points, all in the first half. The margin would have also been wider if kicker Cody Parkey didn’t bang two extra points and two field goals off the uprights.
More importantly, second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky put forth arguably the best performance of his career against Detroit.
.@Mtrubisky10: “It was just me doing my job, sitting back there getting the ball to the playmakers, so I just felt really comfortable today, and I put the ball where it needed to go, and it's all credit to my teammates.”
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) November 12, 2018
Trubisky set a career single-game high in passing yards by amassing 355 yards through the air. Mitch also went 23-30 through the air for three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The 76.7 percent completion rate was Trubisky’s best in a game this season and second best of his career.
Sunday night’s divisional matchup with the Vikings will be the most important game of the season thus far for Chicago.
The Bears enter the game with momentum. Besides the note on Trubisky, the returning impacts of wide receiver Allen Robinson and linebacker Khalil Mack feed the reason to believe in Chicago.
Mack combined for five tackles against the Lions, while Robinson set a season-high in receiving yards (133) and touchdowns (two).
The Bears are evidently feeling good about themselves. High confidence is necessary as Sunday approaches. Minnesota has dominated Chicago recently. The Vikings have won six of the previous seven games between the two teams.
It is also relevant to mention that, though the Bears have been better than their divisional foe through 10 weeks, two of Minnesota’s losses have come against the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. In other words, against the two best teams in the NFC.
Losing 27-6 to the Bills at home was embarrassing. But, the Vikings have done everything necessary to prove the Buffalo game was merely a fluke.
Given Minnesota’s talent and the recent history between the rivals, Chicago will need to exhaust all weapons in order to emerge victorious in week 11. Let’s take a look at the main focus for the Bears on Sunday night.
— Kirk Cousins (@KirkCousins8) November 7, 2018
Limit Kirk Cousins, lethal Minnesota passing attack.
Minnesota’s high-scoring offense has been dictated by the passing game this season.
The thought upon signing Kirk Cousins in the offseason was that the seventh-year Michigan State product would be capable of utilizing Minnesota’s dangerous receivers fully.
Well, the Vikings’ front office was correct. Cousins’ 298 passing yards per game and 17 touchdowns both rank within the top 11 in the league.
The quarterback’s effective play has opened up plenty of opportunities for arguably the best receiver duo in the league.
Adam Thielen leads the NFL in receptions and trails only Julio Jones and Michael Thomas in receiving yards. Thielen is one of the few wide receivers in the league who can essentially win games on his own.
The fifth-year wideout has proved there is really no stopping him. The Vikings have already faced three of the NFL’s best passing defenses (Arizona, Buffalo, and Green Bay). Thielen recorded at least 11 receptions and triple-digit receiving yards in each of said games.
Realistically speaking, the best Chicago can do is restrict Thielen somewhat, not stop him completely. And I’m sure they will be quite alright with that.
What makes containing Minnesota through the air even more difficult is if Chicago solely focuses on Thielen, it will still get burned. That is because Thielen’s counterpart, Stefon Diggs, is fully capable of putting up equally impactful numbers.
You can call him what you want.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) November 8, 2018
Diggs has definitely been less consistent than Thielen. But, when opposing defenses take their attention off the speedy receiver, he tends to make them pay.
Cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, and Bryce Callahan will be the men primarily responsible for limiting both Thielen and Diggs.
Besides a crucial dropped interception by Fuller in week one, the three CBs have proven their worth and come up big for the Bears when it has mattered most this season.
Fuller, Amukamara, and Callahan have combined for eight interceptions and 96 tackles this season. Amukamara has also forced two fumbles in 2018.
Since not many exist, the three haven’t faced a receiver tandem quite like Minnesota’s yet this season. But, Chicago has faced the league’s top passing offense, Tampa Bay.
The Bears held the Buccaneers to their second-lowest passing total in week four, 251 yards.
DeSean Jackson exposed the secondary with a 48-yard reception. Leading receiver Mike Evans was held in check though. Evans recorded only 59 passing yards.
The secondary will have its hands full on Sunday. However, the unit proved it is capable of stepping up against elite vertical offenses.
If the Bears can silence the Vikings’ passing game, they should be able to earn a crucial win. Minnesota’s rushing attack is virtually non-existent. Pairing that with Chicago’s second-best rushing defense should result in close to no progress on the ground for Minnesota.
In turn, resulting in a satisfactory defensive performance if the passing is kept in check.
- Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Eddie Herz is a senior journalism major at Colorado State University. He has been a beat reporter for CSU's newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Collegian, since he was a freshman. Eddie has also contributed to the BTPowerhouse.com, a sister website of SBnation. Eddie will be the CSU Football beat reporter for the Rocky Mountain Collegian this coming Fall.
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