At some point during Sunday’s game, I started feeling sorry for the Vikings. Luckily, the Bears aren’t as soft as I am, and they never relented in swarming Kirk Cousins and suffocating the will from their division-rivals. The Bears crushed the Vikings post-season dreams in their own building, in a season those purple losers entered with perhaps the most hope in franchise history.
Jordan Howard, RB - Howard is becoming an integral part of this Bears offense at the perfect time this season, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I appreciate the deception, finesse, and efficiency in Nagy’s offensive scheme as much as anyone, but sometimes you just want to see a Bear explode through a defense tackle and truck past a few second-levelers on his way to a medium-speed strut into the open field. JHow delivers on this better than anyone, and he brought the thump to the tune of 109 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 carries.
Akiem Hicks, DI - Akiem’s stock really can’t go much higher in my mind, and his pro bowl invitation certainly suggests others have grown to appreciate the Dream, but I can’t ignore the dominant performance and incessant interior pressure he delivered on Sunday. You don’t need to look at the box score to know Hicks terrorized Kirk Cousins all game, but if you do, you’re pupils might just turn into heart emoji’s when you see a team-leading 1.5 sacks, a team-leading 2 additional QB hits, and a team-tying 1.5 tackles for loss.
Leonard Floyd, OLB - Floyd didn’t rack up any sacks on Sunday, but he did just about everything else you could ask of him. He led the team in tackles with 8, and tied Hicks with one and half backfield take-downs. Incidental stock down for people who believe Floyd needs to be a dedicated pass-rusher.
Mitchell Trubisky, QB - Biscuit didn’t light up the stat line, and he probably didn’t anything to sway the haters, but he walked into a hostile environment—which according to super-bowl winning linebacker Danny Trevathan was “stupid loud”—and delivered a clean efficient game. He stepped up in the right moments and converted multiple crucial third downs without his top three receivers. As this season progressed, I’ve become less worried about a mistake at every snap and more confident that Biscuit will bring our Bears one step closer to winning.
People who love winning - Some argued that the better strategy would be to lose this game because they preferred matching up against the Vikings in the playoffs. I can’t blame anyone for thinking the Bears would devour these Minnesota also-rans in a wild card round, but the quote Matt Nagy’s post-game press-conference, “I love winning. I think it’s fun to win.” I think Nagy may be on to something.
Cheap-shot jokes at Kirk Cousins salary - I can think of 84 million reasons people like to poke fun at what the Vikings paid for an underwhelming quarterback who seems to crumble when it matters most. I can think of 58 million remaining reasons the Vikings will have salary cap problems for at least the next two years and 60 million in dead cap reasons Kirk Cousins will be around to 3-and-out the Vikings into NFC-north irrelevance for the foreseeable future.
The Third Down: The Bears owned the third down Sunday. Third down should be ashamed of itself. Presumably it’s the most important down in football, but the Bears defense shrugged it off like a minor nuisance as the Vikings proceeded to convert only one of 12 third down attempts. The Vikings defense—who’d entered the game allowing a league-leading 28.4% third-down conversion rate—laid out a red carpet for Trubisky to convert literally double that at 57%. Bow to your new masters third down.
Anyone who predicted less than 12 Bears wins: Which, by my count, is everyone but me and Ken Mitchell.
Bears receiving corps: Both Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller left the game with injuries. Kevin White and Josh Bellamy combined for 2 receptions on 7 targets and both failed to pull in a well-placed deep sideline pass. Turbo and Miller are supposed to be minor, but I’m not happy with the thought of our top three receivers returning from injury at the same time. Silver lining: Javon Wims caught 4 of 4 targets including a high stakes contested third down snatch and was a runner-up in the stock up category.
How about you folks? Whose stocks are rising and falling in your mind?