CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears’ defense was short a superstar defensive tackle and top draft pick linebacker on Sunday and it didn’t matter one bit. In a 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field, there was a strong sense of deja vu as Chicago’s defense had Kirk Cousins flustered from the very start and never let up.
From the moment Chase Daniel replaced Chicago quarterback Mitch Trubisky after suffered a shoulder injury on the sixth play of scrimmage, there was a feeling of here-we-go-again for the Vikings. Daniel led a painstaking touchdown drive, highlighted by a QB sneak on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 43 and a 10-yard touchdown pass to running back Tarik Cohen.
Seven points was all the Bears needed.
The Vikings’ response drive quickly stalled when Cousins overthrew a wide open Adam Thielen on a deep bomb toward the end zone — a scene that played out at Soldier Field last year, only with Stefon Diggs as the target.
Even when the Bears gave the Vikings an opening, Minnesota slammed the door shut on themselves.
Chicago pinned the Vikings back in their own zone on the second offensive possession of the game for Minnesota and Cousins failed to see an open Diggs over the middle, instead electing to check down to fullback CJ Ham — a decision the spooked quarterback would make a number of times throughout the day. The Vikings should have been forced to punt but instead the Bears committed a foolish 15-yard penalty when Eddie Jackson was flagged for extra curricular activity. Chicago was penalized again for holding and then for illegal use of hands, putting Cousins in Bears territory. But Diggs fumbled, ending the threat.
As per usual, the Vikings couldn’t recover from their mistakes. Turns out running the ball for three yards over and over doesn’t dig you out of holes. That’s exactly what happened as the Vikings continued to slam Dalvin Cook into the massive humans in the trenches on first down over and over.
The Bears closed out the half with a 16-play drive that ended with a field goal. Just like last year’s game in which it felt like the Vikings were losing by 30 at half when it was actually within two scores, they somehow only went into the midway break trailing by 10.
Cousins had every opportunity to prove the narrative about him wrong and shine in a game-winning second-half comeback. But as been the case for nearly his entire career, he did not. Instead he fumbled.
Earlier in the week, the Vikings’ QB had a long explanation for how he would handle Khalil Mack’s rushes of the edge. He would pull down the ball, he said. He would change his arm angles, he said. He would take off running, he said.
He did not do any of those things. He fumbled.
Mack shot around helpless left tackle Riley Reiff, ripping the ball out of Cousins’ hands. The Bears recovered and quickly tackled on another field goal.
Still the game was not out of hand. At last check, we are supposed to be in an era of offense in the NFL, so two touchdowns in a half shouldn’t feel like a tough hill to climb. The Vikings and Cousins, however, made it feel as steep as the Sears Tower.
They went three-and-out on the next two drives, giving the Bears another field goal. He absolutely failed repeatedly to find two of the NFL’s elite wide receivers. Late in the third quarter, CJ Ham was the team’s leader in targets.
Naturally when the game was largely out of reach — and you might remember this from last year — Cousins made plays. He hit Diggs on a third-and-18 for 15 yards and then dropped a perfect pass in the bucket for 39 yards.
Too little, too late. As it has been for the entire Cousins tenure. Two plays later, he fumbled again.
It was recovered by the Vikings. On third-and-35, Cousins increased his completion percentage and yards per attempt with a check down to Kyle Rudolph for 12 yards.
When the Vikings got the ball back, they ran on first down and were hit with a 10-yard penalty. Imagine running on first down when trailing by 16 points in the fourth quarter. Mike Zimmer’s theory of continuing to run and run until Cook breaks a home run never came to fruition.
The drive ended with a sack and another checkdown on third-and-long. Diggs threw up his hands, went to the sideline and started yelling at someone.
Of course, there was a garbage-time drive in the fourth in which Cousins went 8-for-10 with 92 yards.
The Vikings are 2-2. They’ll probably beat the Giants next week but with the Lions putting together a good showing against Kansas City and Green Bay off to a 3-1 start, there’s presently no reason to believe the offense can find its way to wins in important game. I mean, they couldn’t out-score Chase Daniel.