A Week 17 rematch in Minnesota could prove to be the de facto division championship game, but for now Chicago’s the team to catch. And the Bears looked the part of playoff contender Sunday night.
The Vikings struggled to do much of anything offensively until it was too late and couldn’t get off the field when the Bears had the ball. It was a game that had a lot of winners in Bears uniforms, but there were also a few Vikings who had a good night. And some who didn’t.
Winner: Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack
Perhaps you’ve heard of him. There probably isn’t a defensive player in the NFL with a better highlight reel than Mack this season and he added a few more ridiculous plays to it Sunday.
It started with a forced fumble in the first quarter:
And even when he didn’t make a play on the ball, he still ruined lives:
Khalil Mack throws Riley Reiff down with one arm pic.twitter.com/seWvBnspeV— Vikings Blogger (@firstandskol) November 19, 2018
Somehow, Mack only finished with one sack on the night, but it came at a good time. He got to Cousins late in the third quarter to help stall a Vikings drive that got into the red zone:
Mack already led the league in forced fumbles coming into the night and tied a career-best with his fifth of the season. He also pushed his sack total to eight in his eighth game of the season.
Winner: Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks
For all the great plays that Mack made, Hicks may have had an even more impactful night for the Bears. The Vikings couldn’t run the ball all night and it was largely due to Hicks destroying everyone in his path.
Hicks also got a sack in the second half. And like Mack, it ruined the Vikings’ chances at getting into the end zone:
He had many other great plays, including a deflection of a two-point conversion attempt from the Vikings in the final minute of the game. There are a lot of stars on the Chicago defense, and Hicks is among the very best.
Loser: Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins
There were a lot of things working against Cousins on Sunday. His offensive line is struggling, the Vikings couldn’t run, and the Bears defense is just scary.
But yeesh, he made some bad throws. The Sunday Night Football crew speculated his first interception had to have been a miscommunication with tight end Kyle Rudolph. But even if that was the case, he still lofted it where a safety was sitting and waiting.
His second interception was returned by Eddie Jackson for a back-breaking touchdown for the Bears:
Cousins finished with 262 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions — a decent line thanks to garbage time. Don’t let it fool you, this was one of his worst showings since joining the Vikings.
Winner: Vikings receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen
Even if it was a bad night for Cousins, the Vikings’ pair of star receivers provided a reminder that they’re both really good.
Diggs caught 13 passes for 126 yards and Thielen caught seven for 66 yards. The latter crossed 1,000 yards on the season and joined some stellar company in the process:
Winner: Bears kicker Cody Parkey
Poor Cody Parkey missed two extra points and both his field goal attempts a week ago in a 34-22 win over the Lions.
He somehow kept his job another week and spent his week practicing overtime to make sure he didn’t hit any more damn goal posts. Parkey rewarded the Bears for their patience by coming through with a great game against the Vikings. He made all three of his field goal attempts, including a 48-yard try in the final minutes of the game that put the game out of reach.
Winner: Vikings safety Anthony Harris
In the first three seasons of Harris’ NFL career, he didn’t record a single interception. He got his first in a Week 6 game against the Cardinals this year. But against the Bears, he upped his career total to three with not one, but two interceptions of Mitchell Trubisky.
Both were ill-advised throws from the Bears’ second-year quarterback, but Harris made the plays when they were there. His first was the more impressive of the two picks, with Harris going up high to take the ball away from Taylor Gabriel.
Harris was forced into the starting lineup when Andrew Sendejo went down with a groin injury, and Sunday night was another excellent performance by the fourth-year player.
Loser: Vikings rush defense
The Bears entered the night averaging 29.9 points per game, so it wasn’t exactly a prolific day for the Chicago offense. Especially considering one of the team’s two touchdowns was a defensive score.
But what the Chicago offense did especially well against the Vikings defense was dominate time of possession with their rushing attack. By halftime, the Bears already had Minnesota verging on its worst performance of the year against the run.
The #Bears have 115 rush yards in the first half vs the Vikings.— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 19, 2018
The #Vikings season-high in rush yards allowed is 128 (Wk 3 vs BUF).
Last time a team rushed for as many yards in a first half against the Vikings was Week 17, 2016 when the Bears had 130 rush yards in Minnesota.
Bears coach Matt Nagy deserves much of the credit because of the many looks the Bears offense gave a usually stout Vikings defensive line:
Jordan Howard finished with 63 rushing yards, Trubisky with 43, Tarik Cohen with 27, and Taylor Gabriel with 17. That’s a decent recovery for the Vikings after a rough first half, but it still set a tone that allowed Chicago to comfortably control the pace for most of the game.
Going for two-point conversions instead of extra points has been the smart choice for years, but now more so than ever. Offenses are taking over the NFL and kickers are far from automatic now that extra points aren’t taken from 19 yards away.
Still, few teams actually try two-point conversions often.
That wasn’t the case Sunday. After all four touchdowns there was a two-point conversion, and the first three were successful.
It started with the Bears going for two to take an 11-0 lead and then again to take a 22-6 lead. Minnesota’s decision was more out of necessity when they cut the lead to 22-14, and again when they unsuccessfully tried to cut the lead to 25-22.
Either way, it was a night that was proof that it’s wise to take a better than 50 percent chance at two points than a less than 100 percent chance at one point.
Winner: Bears touchdown celebrations
It was a good night for Chicago and they came prepared with two of the best group celebrations of the year.
First it was the offense canoeing:
And then it was Eddie Jackson leading a defensive orchestra:
Sounds like angels singing. pic.twitter.com/PeEQw7U4RU— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) November 19, 2018
It’s just too bad we didn’t get to see what the Chicago special teams had prepared.