Against the odds, the Chicago Bears went out and did it last week by snapping their six game losing streak against the Houston Texans. It was a win some Bears’ fans didn’t want to see, but there’s no such thing as tanking in the NFL.
Draft pick positioning be damned, the Bears are back in the playoff hunt!
They shellacked the Texans to keep their slim postseason hopes alive, and while most of us have been saying how bad a team Houston is, the Bears were favored to lose the game. Mitchell Trubisky and the offense put together their best game this year and the defense bounced back after a couple lackluster performances.
The Bears have a chance to boost their playoff hopes by sticking it to the division rival Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and if you’re scoreboard watching be sure to keep an eye on the Arizona Cardinals (7-6) who play the Philadelphia Eagles at 3:05 pm (CT).
But a loss to the Vikes would all but make the Arizona game moot as far as playoffs go, so Chicago has to take care of business in Minnesota.
Here are our keys for a Bears victory.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.:
In their first meeting (week 10) the Bears lost Akiem Hicks towards the end of the third quarter to an injury, and before he exited they held Vikings running back Dalvin Cook to 39 yards rushing on 19 carries. But in the fourth quarter, with Hicks sidelined, Cook ran 11 times for 57 yards. With Hicks back, the Bears have the inside presence to corral Cook, and to force Kirk Cousins to beat them.
Offensively the Bears really should commit to a few more runs this week. In the last three games David Montgomery and Cordarrelle Patterson have rushed for less than 20 carries a game, while averaging 6.7 per rush. I’d like to see these two combine for 25 carries, while letting Trubisky get into a rhythm on play action passes.
Offense: Run that ball!
Nothing has buoyed the Bears’ offense quite like passing out of play-action, but the Bears only seem to commit to consistent play-action passing when David Montgomery and Cordarrelle Patterson are grinding out yards on the ground — in last week’s game against the Texans, David Montgomery’s 80-yard TD run alone inspired approximately 8 first half play-action passes that helped Mitch Trubisky efficiently move down the field while also neutering the Texans’ pass rush (and assisting the Bears’ offensive line). In 2020, the Bears offense starts with the run.
Defense: Blitz Roquan Smith!
Roquan Smith is an outstanding coverage linebacker, but against the Texans he reminded the NFL of his versatility as a bitzer — his rushes punished Tytus Howard time and time again, but more importantly they freed up Khalil Mack on 1v1s that he took advantage of consistently (like on his 2nd Quarter safety). Given that the Bears are taking on a QB that doesn’t play well under pressure in Kirk Cousins, keep blitzing Roquan this weekend and the defense should succeed.
Special Teams: Keep on keeping on!
This Vikings team has somehow clawed their way back into playoff contention. They’re a fascinating team to scout, because they didn’t exactly throw out the old game plan after starting the season 1-5. What they were doing just eventually started to work.
For the Bears on offense, you absolutely have to stay on the field. The Bears only had the ball for enough time to run 17 run plays in their first matchup - not enough. Move Trubisky around, cut the field in half, and be willing to let him run the ball if his 2 main reads aren’t open. Don’t run out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage, though.
On defense, you have to play them honest. They’re a balanced offense, despite starting one of the NFL’s most outstanding running backs in Dalvin Cook. Quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t exactly a shiny red Ferrari, he’s more the old Toyota - it has some things wrong with it, sure, but it runs. Eventually he’s going to take his shot downfield, and the Bears need to make him pay.
Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter:
Offense: Mix up the run game some more, and keep using Trubisky’s athleticism to your advantage. We’ve seen the Bears offense put up 30+ points in consecutive weeks, and it’s largely because of a more simplistic, yet realistic concept on offense has taken over. Meanwhile, David Montgomery is averaging over 7 yards per carry with Bill Lazor as the play-caller, keep feeding him that damn football.
Defense: do not use the same cowardly game plan from last time. Go after Kirk Cousins. Go. After. Kirk. Cousins. The defense contained Dalvin Cook reasonably well the first go-round, but kept playing soft coverage on third down. Use the same game plan we saw from the Texans game beginning in the 2nd quarter, and blitz the crap out of the middle. Blow up Minnesota’s interior O-line.
Special Teams: keep doing what you’re doing. Return kicks, make field goals, and pin the Vikings’ offense deep in punting situations.
Will Robinson II:
Offense: Stick largely to the gameplan you had for the Texans, just with more David Montgomery mixed in. The Vikings D isn’t good. It’s certainly not the Texans D, but it’s bottom half of the league. Since facing the Bears is Week 10, they’ve allowed starting running backs to carry 72 times for 316 yards and 4.3 ypc, and allowed the top 2 running backs to combine for 90 carries for 456 yards and 5 ypc. You can run on them, if you commit. All of those starting running backs had at least 15 carries in those games. So get Montgomery 15-20 carries, with another 3-5 touches through the air. Get him the ball in space, and watch him go. Their passing defense hasn’t been terrible the past 4 weeks (not stellar, but not bad), allowing 236.5 yards, 1.75 TDs and 1 INT per game since Week 10. So don’t tempt fate with Maserati Mitch. Continue to utilize high percentage throws on plays with simple reads that are designed to exploit the defensive coverages. Move the pocket and cut the field in half. Mitch is good on the run, so use his athleticism and roll him out. Use play-action to delay that first step from defenders to create better throwing lanes, and take what the defense gives you. Keep Mitch Trubisky comfortable, and don’t ask him to do anything he’s not capable of. You do that, and you can move the ball and put points on the board with him behind center.
Defense: Pressure. We saw it vs the Texans. Granted, their O-line isn’t, um, great. Still. We saw more inside blitzes, and blitz options last Sunday. More 6 man rushes. In the modern NFL, where offensive linemen are allowed to hold with near impunity, that’s what you need to do to get consistent pressure. So do it. Rattle Kirk Cousins. Make him see Khalil Mack when he closes his eyes. Make him hear Roquan Smith’s footsteps every time he takes the snap. Make him feel Akiem Hicks’ warm breath on his neck everytime there’s a breeze. Dalvin Cook is going to be Dalvin Cook. Do your best to bottle him up (they did fairly well at that in Week 10). But if you get consistent pressure, you can neutralize Kirk Cousins. So get it done.
Special Teams: So far, so good. This unit has been pretty consistent all year. Solid blocking on returns, generally good coverage defending returns, Santos has been money. I’ll take some points if you got em’, but otherwise, just keep on keeping on.
Offense: Keep mixing it up, and don’t be predictable. A short passing game to Montgomery out of the backfield is a form of the running game, and something that should work against this Vikings team. For pity’s sake, clean up the dumb pre-sap penalties!
Defense: PRESSURE Cousins. A LOT. Play with anger and aggression.
Offense: Remember how well things turned out when Montgomery was given the ball? Try that again.
Defense: Keep playing with pride and aggression.
Special Teams: Don’t screw up.
Make Kirk Cousins play like the pumpkin he is — as you were supposed to last time — or let him, of all people, be the owner of a season sweep.
Let Biscuit cook and let Montgomery rest. Focus on Patterson in the run game and use Allen Robinson primarily as a decoy, never targeting him in the red zone. Throw your touchdowns to Miller, Mooney or your ends, or better yet, have Trubisky run them in. Do that, and I’ll have a grizzly’s chance in a pit fight of moving on to my fantasy football finals.
What do you want to see happen with the Bears this week?