The Bears won their first late-season test, getting past the Vikings in the game I was calling the “In the Hunt Bowl.”
The hunt remains on for the Bears, while the Vikings are now all but eliminated.
Scenarios are abound but let’s save all that for another time.
If the Bears are serious about making a push to the postseason they need to be playing their best football and somehow, in the span of a month, that has flipped a switch.
Suddenly the offense is playing its best football, but the defense seems to be in a funk. Sure they’re doing well, good enough even, but not what fans expect. Where are the turnovers? The total domination of opponents?
Let’s take a look at who I think is on their way up in late December and who is on the way down.
Darnell Mooney - Setting a franchise rookie record for receptions is one thing and worthy of praise on its own, but Mooney, who has been a bright spot all year, is truly on the rise. He now has a touchdown in consecutive games and has 13 catches since the bye week and 148 yards.
Mitchell Trubisky - I’m not advocating for an extension. I’m not even saying he’s turned a corner or broken some magical developmental ceiling or saying it’s not feeding off bad defenses, none of that. But the way he is playing deserves praise and maybe it’s just meshing well with Bill Lazor or maybe it’s being more vocal about getting the offense run the way he’s comfortable with, but either way, Mitch is a big reason the offense is more efficient and scoring more points. He’s always going to throw ugly, head-scratching interceptions, but at his best he can roll out, get yards when plays break down and find an open receiver here and there.
Bilal Nichols - Early in the season I was disappointed a little in Nichols. Not that I thought he could adequately fill Eddie Goldman’s shoes, but I thought that the defense wouldn’t be such a sieve up the middle with Nichols. Well, it may have taken a little longer but those concerns are no more. Nichols is a better pass rusher than Goldman, in a pure sense, Nichols has been making an impact and is coming into his own during this stretch run. With him and Goldman both next year, the interior of the defense appears to be in good hands.
Eddie Jackson - Jackson isn’t having the best of seasons, by the lofty expectations he’s set the last two years. Some of it isn’t entirely his fault, because early in the year he had some big plays taken away from him. However, he just doesn’t seem the same. Tackling was never really his strong suit, but there’s been some times, especially on Sunday, where it really didn’t look like he was interested in making an effort to make a tackle.
Duke Shelley - Overall I think Shelley actually played pretty well but he did have an obvious lapse in coverage against Adam Thielen that gave up the first Vikings touchdown of the game. Leaving one of the Vikings’ best receivers wide open is brutal.
Kyle Fuller - The secondary had a lot on their plate Sunday, with both Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine sidelined. With that said, I would have expected that the play of veterans like Fuller and Jackson to step up and I didn’t see it. I saw a lot of missed tackles and a general lack of killer mentality at times. Hopefully it was a one week think but the play of two former All-Pros needs to step up in this crucial stretch.