The Chicago Bears stunk it up once again on primetime. This time it was against the Minnesota Vikings in a 17-9 loss at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football. Now at 4-10, the Bears are officially eliminated from playoff contention.
It's fitting that the Bears are one of only a few teams to have their playoff hopes end this early. They join the following bottom-dwellers:
- Detroit Lions (2-11-1)
- Houston Texans (3-11)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)
- New York Jets (3-11)
As for Monday's game, Matt Nagy suffered his second loss to the Vikings during his tenure. The Bears started 4-0 vs. Minnesota under Nagy but have gone 1-2 since, including losses at home in consecutive years. Their Week 18 matchup may very well mark the last time Nagy faces the Vikings as the Bears' head coach (if he makes it that long).
As things currently stand, the Bears hold the fifth overall draft pick in 2022. However, due to the trade-up for Justin Fields in 2021, that pick now belongs to the New York Giants.
Regardless, the Bears played a game and we're here to talk about it. So without further ado, here are the takeaways from their loss to the Vikings on Monday Night Football.
Given the eye test, the offense looked worse than it was. The Bears actually weren't that bad. A quick look at the box score provides proof. The Bears outplayed the Vikings but a lack of scoring and their troubles in the red zone proved detrimental. But, more on that later.
Red Zone Woes
The Bears were able to move the ball between the 20s but once they reached the 20-yard-line...woof. They were dreadful in the red zone. Chicago's offense converted on just one of five red-zone opportunities. The lone success? Well, that was the last play of the game when Justin Fields connected with Jesper Horsted in garbage time. Nevertheless, here are the breakdowns of the Bears' trips to the red zone:
- Third Drive: Fumble (0-1)
- Fourth Drive: Field Goal (0-2)
- Ninth Drive: Turnover on downs (0-3)
- Tenth Drive: Turnover on downs (0-4)
- Eleventh Drive: Touchdown (1-5)
The Bears left at minimum nine points off the board strictly based on failed red-zone opportunities.
They lost by eight, but hindsight is 20/20.
Justin Fields didn't have the best of games but he still managed to put up a decent stat line.
- Completions: 26
- Attempts: 39
- Completion %: 66.7
- Yards: 285
- Yards/Attempt: 7.3
- Touchdowns: 1
- Interceptions: 0
- Sacks: 3
- Sack Yards Lost: 30
- Rating: 96.6
Additionally, Fields picked up 35 yards on seven rushes. Once again, the rookie QB had issues with ball security when he fumbled in the first quarter. But Fields' issues went beyond just coughing up the ball.
He failed to get the ball out of his hands quick enough and took multiple unnecessary sacks. Fields displayed a great deal of indecisiveness in this game. It almost seemed like he was trying to do too much. His scrambling in an attempt to make something out of nothing is all well and good. But sometimes it's better to just throw the ball away rather than take the sack, which was a problem on two of the three sacks.
Furthermore, the rookie has to work on his slides. Fields simply has to be better at protecting himself when he's going down. The baseball/pop-up slides look awkward and open himself up to residual contact from pursuing defenders. Luckily he got a call when Eric Kendricks hit him in the head, but those are hits you prefer to avoid.
For what it's worth, Fields didn't get much help from his supporting cast. The offensive line broke down in pass protection a handful of times. Likewise, the pass-catchers dropped numerous balls thrown their way. However, Fields missed on a few throws, some of which were layups he'd like to have back. Despite the struggles, he excelled in passes of 10-plus yards downfield.
In fact, Fields is getting praise from Dan Orlovsky. The former NFL QB was initially skeptical of Fields coming out of college.
As a whole, Chicago logged 28 rushes for 115 yards, good for an average of 4.1 yards per attempt. Normally, that is a figure decent enough to win a game. Here is the distribution of those attempts:
- David Montgomery: 18 rushes, 60 yards (3.3 avg)
- Justin Fields: 7 rushes, 35 yards (5.0 avg)
- Jakeem Grant: 2 rushes, 17 yards (8.5 avg)
- Darnell Mooney: 1 rush, 3 yards (3.0 avg)
However, the Bears did not give Montgomery enough touches in the running game. The workhorse running back is capable of shouldering the load. He did just that in Minnesota last year when he logged 32 carries for 146 yards (4.6 avg) and two touchdowns. Not only that, but Khalil Herbert and Damien Williams were missing from the run game.
As for the pass catchers, here is what they contributed to the offense. Cole Kmet led the team in receptions and yards.
This might be one of the most impressive performances ever. The secondary had zero regular starters and the defensive front was without Khalil Mack and a few others. Now, given the personnel Sean Desai was working with, their performance to the Vikings offense deserves some praise.
The Bear's defense held Minnesota to 193 total yards -- 61 through the air and 132 on the ground. In addition, Justin Jefferson did not have his usual dynamic game. He caught just four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. Of course, the score came on a blown coverage by Deon Bush. Another weapon in Dalvin Cook did not eclipse the 100-yard mark. He picked up 89 yards on 28 carries, good for an average of 3.2 per carry.
During the course of the game, Kirk Cousins was unable to do much against the Bears. He completed only 12 of 24 passes for 87 yards while the Bears took him down four times for a loss of 26 yards.
In the year 2021, Pro Bowler Robert Quinn is about to break the Bears' single-season sack record. Richard Dent originally set the bar 37 years ago.
Quinn added two more sacks against the Vikings and now has 16.0 in total. He's only 1.5 sacks away from surpassing Richard Dent's 17.5.
Here is sack No. 15.
- 5 tackles
- 4 solo
- 2 sacks
- 2 TFL
The big man came to play. However, his postgame comments revealed the harsh reality of the business. The fact of the matter is that No. 96 may not be here in 2022.
Roquan Smith: Pro Bowl Snub
Once again, Roquan Smith didn't make the Pro Bowl. Frankly, it's a travesty and an injustice.
As one of the top inside linebackers in the league, Smith doesn't get the proper recognition. There are even those who think he doesn't does make enough "impact" plays, which is just asinine and downright silly. The tweet below clearly illustrates where Smith ranks among the NFL's "top" linebackers.
#AllPRoquan is a game-changer and did something that hasn't happened since Lance Briggs' playing days.
Roquan Smith vs. Vikings
If the proof wasn't already in the pudding, Roquan Smith had another Roquan Smith game. He led the team in tackles against the Vikings.
- 10 tackles
- 3 solo
While it's not flashy, his presence is incredibly important. If you pay close attention, Smith is constantly flying around and becomes visible during almost every play.
Thomas Graham Jr.
The Bears stashed the rookie cornerback on the practice squad all season. When the team needed a CB2 alongside Jaylon Johnson, they could have used Thomas Graham Jr.'s services. The mismanagement of the roster is baffling as they have the players to help them with their weaknesses.
In his NFL debut, Graham Jr. delivered in a big way when the Bears needed him most.
- 7 tackles
- 2 solo
- 3 pass breakups
The stat sheet doesn't do any justice to how well he actually played.
The special teams had a rough game. A blocked field goal and a muffed punt by Damiere Byrd were the lowlights. However, one of the bright spots was Pat O'Donnell's 72-yard punt that pinned the Vikings deep in their own territory.
Additionally, Damien Williams blocked a punt to give the Bears a chance late in the game.
It still wasn't pretty, but Jenkins had a solid outing against the Vikings. It was much cleaner than his first NFL start vs. the Packers in Week 14.
He still has plenty to clean up as he committed a few penalties. But the moment Bears fans and Justin Fields will remember vividly is when Jenkins came to the defense of his QB.
While Germain Ifedi looked to avoid conflict, Jenkins stepped in to defend his QB. Alex Brown chimed in on the matter.
Clearly, Jenkins has an Olin Kreutz/Kyle Long-esque nastiness to his game. He is not afraid to fight for his guys.
The fourth-year head coach was back calling plays while Bill Lazor was out. A handful of questionable play calls and decisions resulted in just nine points, six of which came in garbage time.
It's wash, rinse, repeat when it comes to Nagy's offense. It's not worth anyone's time to even bother lobbying for him. The writing is on the wall; it's only a matter of three weeks until he is no longer the Bears' head coach.
The outbreak at Halas Hall left the Bears without some big names and their depth took a massive hit. Here is a list of the players who had to sit this one out, per Kevin Fishbain:
- Larry Borom
- Artie Burns
- Isaiah Coulter
- Andy Dalton
- Mario Edwards Jr.
- Tashaun Gipson
- Joel Iyiegbuniwe
- Eddie Jackson
- Jesse James
- Jaylon Johnson
- Sam Kamara
- Ryan Nall
- Allen Robinson
- Duke Shelley
As a result, the Bears called upon some fresh faces.
- Nsimba Webster
- Thomas Graham Jr.
- Dee Virgin
- Michael Joseph
- BoPete Keyes
- Charles Snowden
- LaCale London
- Dazz Newsome
Likewise, they activated a familiar face from the IR.
- Germain Ifedi
Furthermore, the Bears were without two of their coordinators even after getting defensive coordinator Sean Desai back.
- Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor
- Special Teams Coach Chris Tabor
The Bears let another winnable game slip through their fingers all thanks to self-inflicted wounds. Now, they're officially out of the playoff race. There's nothing left to play for except for pride and future jobs. The rookies will look to develop further as well.
Matt Nagy's time as the Bears' head coach is coming to an end. As soon as the final whistle blows on January 9, that'll be the last we see of him. The date to mark on the calendar is Monday, January 10. Expect the long-anticipated news to become official then.
As far as Ryan Pace is concerned, he's a polarizing figure in Chicago. Many fans want him fired. Others want to keep him around. There are even some who would like to see him promoted to President of Football Operations.
What's On Tap Next?
The 4-10 Chicago Bears make the trip out to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks. Pete Carroll's team will be on shorter rest than the Bears after losing 20-10 to the Rams on Tuesday as part of the NFL's COVID rescheduling. It's still possible the NFL reschedules the Week 16 meeting due to Seattle's short week. But as of now, the Bears will play the Seahawks on Sunday, December 26 at 3:05 PM CST. The game will air on FOX.
As far as these two teams go, it'll be tough to tell who will be available for the game due to the recent wave of COVID cases around the NFL. The Bears will surely have their hands full with the 12th Man in Seattle. That's a loud and hostile environment for any team to play in. If all goes well, fans will get to see a matchup featuring Justin Fields vs. Russell Wilson. A healthy Seahawks team led by Wilson, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett will pose problems for the Bears.
Be sure to tune into Bears On Tap podcast for further postgame reaction plus updates and analysis throughout the week.