NFC North Reporter
In a game that quite frankly no one deserved to win, the Chicago Bears bested the Minnesota Vikings, 12-10, without ever scoring a touchdown. They became the first team to win a game without getting in the end zone this season, and it’s the first time Chicago has won such a game since 1993. It was also head coach Matt Eberflus’ first divisional win of his 29-game Bears tenure. He’s now 1-9 in the NFC North.
In fairness, the Bears should have had a ton more points. Chicago’s defense forced four turnovers.
The problem is, the Bears only got three points off them.
The offense was anemic Monday night. Scared off by the prospect of a Brian Flores blitz, it was nothing but short passes when quarterback Justin Fields did throw the ball. He finished 27-of-37 for 217 yards and no touchdowns despite having four bonus possessions. He ran the ball 12 times for 59 yards and Fields fumbled twice, both times in the fourth quarter. At halftime, he was averaging 0.8 yards per pass attempt. Fields finished the game with 46% of his pass attempts at or behind the line of scrimmage, according to Next Gen Stats. He was completely afraid of the middle of the field too, until the very end.
The Bears’ longest play of the game came on fourth and 10 with Chicago down one point and needing to get into field goal range where Fields delivered an off-script 36-yard strike to wide receiver D.J. Moore with just over a minute left. The 30-yard game-winning field goal was good and the Bears escaped — just barely.
Chicago has seven takeaways in the last two games, all of them interceptions. The Bears’ defense picked off Jared Goff in Detroit three times last weekend. They intercepted Vikings quarterback Josh Dobbs four times Monday night.
“This defense has been balling out these last two weeks,” Fields said after the game.
Of the four interceptions they had on Monday night, two were tipped by the Vikings’ own players — both on catchable balls by Josh Dobbs. But four different Bears players were there to come down with the ball regardless: cornerback Jaylon Johnson, linebacker T.J. Edwards, safety Jaquan Brisker and cornerback Kyler Gordon thanks to a tip by defensive tackle Justin Jones.
In Detroit, it was Edwards, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and cornerback Tyrique Stevenson.
This is something Eberflus has stressed all season. The Bears had just six interceptions in the first 10 games of the year. They were one of the worst teams in total takeaways in the league. They’ve now catapulted into the top 10.
“Defense creates momentum in a lot of different ways,” Eberflus said. “They do it through third-down stops, they do it through big hits and they do it through taking the ball away. That’s what we always preach to the guys, and they did all three things today.”
[Related: Monday Night Football highlights: Bears defeat Vikings 12-10 on late field goal]
The thing is, Chicago has seen tangible defensive improvement this year, even early on. They have the top-ranked rushing defense in the league, averaging just 79.5 rushing yards allowed on a per-game basis. They give up just 3.3 yards per play on the ground. That’s lightyears better than last season, where they finished 31st in rushing defense.
With the addition of Montez Sweat, the Bears’ pass rush has come alive, too. They managed two sacks on Dobbs, 1.5 of which came from Sweat himself. More than that, the addition of Sweat has apparently allowed them to start getting more creative. There was pressure again from multiple levels and *gasps* blitz packages that brought not just five but six in some instances. It was enough to make Dobbs uncomfortable all night. He had one good drive that came in the fourth quarter to put Minnesota up by 10. Otherwise, Dobbs completed 22 of 32 passing attempts for 185 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions, good for a passer rating of 54.3.
In case you’re wondering about the pass defense, it could still use some work but the game on Monday night should do well for the Bears’ average of 218.6 yards per game they’re giving up through the air, which ranks 17th coming into the game. They were dead last in passing yards per play allowed with a 7.73-yard average. The Vikings had just 169 passing yards on the night. Chicago batted down eight passes, including three by Johnson.
Minnesota also only possessed the ball for 24 minutes and 10 seconds, giving the Bears over a 10-minute advantage. In their last 120 minutes of football, Chicago’s offense has had the ball for 76 minutes and 14 seconds — nearly two-thirds of the last two games.
They’re doing all of this without a defensive coordinator, by the way.
From a purely defensive standpoint, the side of the ball that Eberflus owns, Chicago has gotten the improvement they so desperately needed this season.
The Bears are now 4-3 in primetime games and 3-19 all other games. The question is now if Eberflus’ defense is enough to save him.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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