What we learned from Vikings’ win over Bears
Minnesota Vikings 19, Chicago Bears 13
1) Famously winless on Monday Night Football, Kirk Cousins made one of the worst decisions he’s ever made late in the second quarter. No, it wasn’t on an interception to Khalil Mack – after all, Mack essentially pick-pocketed Adam Thielen more so than picking off Cousins. It came at the end of the play when Mack was drifting out of bounds and Cousins decided to lower his shoulder into Mack, who kindly lowered his and remained standing, while Cousins did not. But at the end of the night, for the first time in his career, Cousins was standing tall on a Monday evening. For whatever reason, the football gods frowned down upon Cousins as he began his career 0-9 on Monday nights, but that monkey has been removed from the Vikings QB’s back. Against an excellent Bears defensive effort, Cousins was efficient to the tune of 292 yards, two scores, just the one turnover and tallied a 100.7 QB rating. In comparison to the Bears’ offensive output, Cousins and his charges looked phenomenal. And, frankly, against such a spirited defensive effort, they might well have been. For all the credit — and most deservedly so — that Dalvin Cook gets, Cousins is and has to be a big part of the Vikings (4-5) roaring back into relevance with a third-straight win.
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2) With the offense sputtering and struggling along through 30 dreadful minutes, Cordarrelle Patterson needed just 14 seconds and 104 yards to infuse some excitement into Monday night and turn the Bears’ fortunes. For an NFL record-tying eighth time in his career, Patterson returned a kickoff for a touchdown, encompassing 104 yards to set a new Bears franchise standard (surpassing the late and oh-so-great Gale Sayers’ 103-yard return in 1967). Patterson’s return invigorated the Bears, whose defense forced a punt on the ensuing drive only for the Bears’ Dwayne Harris to muff a punt and give it right back to the Vikings, who got three points out of it. Perhaps Patterson should’ve been back to return the punt, though he was trying to do everything on this November night. Patterson was also the Bears’ leading rusher with a horrendous line of 12 carries for 30 yards and added two catches for 19. He tried to do it all, but he couldn’t. Instead, he provided the only TD of the night for Chicago (5-5), which lost for the fourth game in a row. Unfortunately for the Bears, Patterson provided the night’s biggest highlight, but also shined a light on just how abysmal Chicago’s offense was.
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3) Having strung a pair of victories together in Weeks 8-9, the Vikings did so without much from Thielen, who had previously hauled in five TDs over a four-week span. Previous to Monday, Thielen had just one score in 11 games against the Bears. That was all changed on Monday. Beginning with a sensational left-handed grab to open the scoring, Thielen finished with just four catches for 43 yards, but had two touchdowns, once again reaffirming his nose for the end zone. Thielen is now tied for the league-lead with nine touchdowns. In many ways, the belief that Cook has been carrying the Vikings is true. However, with Thielen and a sensational rookie all rounding into stellar form, the Vikings’ offense is gaining steam amid a winning streak.
4) Much like Bears head coach Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor sprinkled in some razzle-dazzle, tom foolery, motion and misdirection. And much like Nagy, Lazor didn’t ignite the offense with any of it or do much toward putting forth an entertaining product. More often than not, it routinely boiled down to Nick Foles rolling around and throwing from all angles, finding sporadic success, but more often disappointment. The Bears offense’s night essentially began with a Harrison Smith interception off a ball that went through the hands of Anthony Miller and came to a close moments after Foles was carted off the field. In between, the Bears offense wasted exceptional performances by the team’s special teams and defense. Chicago turned two takeaways into just three points. An offensive TD was never found. The Bears somehow only put together 149 total yards against the NFL’s No. 29 defense. Somebody new was calling the plays. A new back was in the backfield. It’s possible when the Bears return from their bye to play the mighty Packers that they will have somebody else at quarterback. But this is the same dismal and painful story for a Chicago offense that’s lingered along while the rest of the squad does all it can. Changes have been made. Perhaps they’re not the right ones, perhaps they’re not enough. But answers to the Bears’ offensive problems are as difficult to come by as points these days.
James Jones: Justin Jefferson proved he’s OROY material on ‘MNF’
5) Strong and long, capable of making tough grabs, running after the catch and stretching the field, Justin Jefferson looks every bit like a future star. Just as impressive as anything in the rookie’s skill set was his refusal to go down easy against a physical Bears defense, as Jefferson fought for every yard and he had 135 on eight grabs (he got the yards, Thielen got the scores). As the Vikings got off to a woeful start, perhaps Jefferson wasn’t getting the attention he deserved, but he should start getting it now as a phenomenal first year continues. Eyebrows were raised when the Vikings shipped Stefon Diggs to the Bills and broke up perhaps the league’s best receiving tandem, but the Thielen-Jefferson twosome is already among the best it would seem.
6) Cook was contained to 96 yards on 30 carries — a 3.2 average per carry for one of the NFL’s most dynamic backs. At game’s end it was likely the most significant statistical proof of how well the Bears defense played on Monday. Mack, Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan and on and on hit hard, tackled well for the most part and played fired-up defense. But they were defeated. Three-and-out after three-and-out for the Bears offense could only be sustained for so long. There has been much ado that the Bears defense isn’t the same dominant entity it was in 2018. And it isn’t. But how could it be? Game after game and season after season of having to carry the load while the offense figures it out and gives the ball back is daunting. That was the story Monday. It was a very familiar one.
7) Cook was his most successful in the fourth quarter, which was after Akiem Hicks went out with a hamstring injury. Foles’ injury will draw the headlines, but the Bears struggled last season when Hicks went down and in a sample size Monday struggled once more. If Hicks misses an extended amount of time, it bodes horribly for the Bears, who seemed to get bad news on top of bad news in another defeat.