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Tactical Thinking Bears vs. Vikings: Montgomery will be key for Chicago

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The 2-1 Chicago Bears look to regain some ground in their division, and one player in particular seems ready to run over the Purple People Eaters.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Winning certainly changes the mood for an entire fanbase. Entering week four of the regular season, we are finally witnessing the Chicago Bears develop an identity on offense. The 2-1 Bears still have ground to regain in the NFC North, and this Sunday features a prime opportunity to capture some serious momentum.

The Chicago Bears will host the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field, where Chicago has won 15 of the past 19 games dating back to 2000. Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson are certainly licking their chops right now, given all the success they had last season against the Kirk Cousins-led offense. Yet, I see one young player on offense primed to break out in front of the home crowd, and it’s not the quarterback.

Familiar foes clash as a physical slug-fest is expected at Soldier Field

Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

This Vikings defense is not one to sleep on. It’s a group that we’ve grown accustomed to watching over the years, with the only real change occurring at defensive tackle. Shamar Stephen was signed to replace Sheldon Richardson, as the later opted to sign with the Cleveland Browns.

Through three games this season they rank 6th in points allowed. However, they also rank 12th in yards allowed per game, and 13th against the run. Not bad by any means, just not nearly as dominant as we’re used to seeing.

Oddly enough, despite having one of the more stout fronts on paper, they have been susceptible to giving up chunks inside of the tackle box. Missed tackles and poor angles have led to big plays on the ground when their opponents made a firm commitment to running the ball.

They’ve already allowed one 100+ yard performance against Aaron Jones in week two. In that game alone, Jones averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Even in their two victories, Josh Jacobs averaged 4.4 yard per carry in Vikings’ latest win against the Oakland Raiders, and Ito Smith averaged 5.2 yards per carry in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

If this suggests anything, it’s that teams have been successful in attacking the Vikings’ defense with the run, if they actually tried.

Matt Nagy pounded the ball against the Vikings in 2018

Chicago Bears v Washington Redskins Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

We’ve all been clamoring for head coach Matt Nagy to stay true to his word of balancing the play calling on offense. So far, the results have been mixed, with a growing emphasis on drilling the interior with power. If 2018 set any precedent for this game, it’s that he’ll at least challenge Mike Zimmer to stop his offense between the tackles.

In total, the Bears’ offense accumulated 319 yards on the ground against the Vikings’ defense between both games played last season. Jordan Howard had over 100 yards in the season finale last year, with your’s truly in attendance to watch. Chicago had it’s way for the most part whenever their Pony Express was fed with the ball.

Getting the ground game going puts your team in position to control the clock. Considering the Bears’ DL won’t have Bilal Nichols for a few more games, and Akiem Hicks is dealing with a sore knee of his own, it’s a necessity for Chicago to keep their defense as fresh as possible. Plus, chewing the clock will put more pressure on Kirk Cousins to play quarterback.

Make time the enemy for Kirk Cousins

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

I’m beyond tempted to make an $84 million joke...yet that’s also Kev’s thing. Here’s a pretty abysmal statline that essentially summarizes Kirk Cousins’s professional career.

5-26.

That is his record against teams above .500 dating back to his days in Washington. When you factor in his guaranteed salary, the calculation of earnings vs. wins results in $16.8 million per win. His life was made miserable by the Bears’ defense last season.

It will be up to Chicago’s defense to stop Dalvin Cook from having his way when the Vikings are on offense. With that in mind, the more time the Bears consume on offense, the less time that will be available for Cousins and his gang to respond. As we’ve all witnessed, Cousins doesn’t have much of a proven clutch factor in his QB genetics.

This week might be the best timing for Matt Nagy to show off his talented young back with a full workload.

David Montgomery has solidified his role as the Bears’ top back

NFL: Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

I saw this coming since the day his name was announced as the 73rd overall pick of the 2019 draft class. Where the “Run DMC” committee....thing was hyped on occasion, I never bought into the suggestion Montgomery wouldn’t take over as a true workhorse back. For what it’s worth Mike Davis had only one carry against the Washington Redskins on Monday night.

I hereby pronounce the committee approach “dead” in Chicago. And for good measure.

In the past two weeks, Montgomery has toted the pigskin 31 times after receiving just 6 carries against the Green Bay Packers. His average yards per carry during the first three games: 3.0, 3.4, then 5.2. He’s getting more comfortable with the playbook, more decisive with his cuts, and more explosive in between carries.

It’s been rocky when discussing the balancing act on offense thus far in Chicago. It all could be related to Matt Nagy still figuring out how to use his new players, with those new faces being David Montgomery, Mike Davis, and Cordarrelle Patterson. I see this being the week he hands off the lion’s share to Montgomery, provided how he leaned on #32 in the 4th quarter to help ice the game on Monday.

He’ll face a tough, but not invulnerable Vikings front seven in the next game of his young career. His style of play will give defenses fits all season long, with a drive and motor to keep churning his feet once contact is felt. Let’s face it, Montgomery will never go down on first contact.

Unlike last year, the Vikings would be foolish to load 8 in the box while Montgomery is on the field, since he’s also a capable receiver out of the backfield.

I can’t help but think a lot of screens and wheel routes will be called against the purple and gold. If Nagy can get Montgomery matched up on any of Minnesota’s linebackers, it should result in big plays to march down the field. Designing an effective play-action passing game will help Mitchell Trubisky get into a rhythm as well. It will be all about making Minnesota respect the threat of Montgomery.

A major opportunity presents itself this Sunday for Chicago to re-position itself into the early race for the NFC North. We’ve seen improvements throughout the team, and the offense’s emergence is critical if the Bears hope to reach the playoffs this season. It’s time for the David Montgomery show to begin.