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5 Takeaways: Embattled Bears show resolve with victory over Vikings

3 months agoChris Emma

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Music blasted through the walls of the visiting locker room of U.S. Bank Stadium late Monday night, reverberating through the facility’s service level. The Bears filed through a roped-off lane walking one by one from the field into the open doors, eager to celebrate this coveted win.

Victories in the NFL come in all different forms but the celebrations are mostly the same – rarely diminished by an ugly win because the players and coaches in those locker rooms understand the work it takes for this.

The Bears have endured adversity, frustration, heartbreak and far too much losing not to savor even a night like this as they earned a 12-10 victory over the Vikings.

“I just thought we did a great job of staying together as a team and finding a way to come out of here with a win,” said linebacker T.J. Edwards. “There was no quit. There was no way we weren’t coming out of here with a win just with everything we’ve been through.”

That’s what the Bears were able to accomplish on Monday night in Minneapolis as they pulled through for a win.

Here are the five takeaways from this primetime victory.

1. A character win

When the Bears last walked off the field eight days ago, this was a team left devastated. They had just blown a 12-point lead in the final 4:15 of a 31-26 loss to the Lions at Ford Field – and they couldn’t believe what had just played out before them.

This was the type of demoralizing loss that can crush the competitive spirit of a team late in a lost season. It was the result that could’ve spelled the end for head coach Matt Eberflus had he seen the Bears quit on him down the stretch. But as players and coaches, they rallied back for this victory.

“We all showed character tonight,” said kicker Cairo Santos, whose 30-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining proved to be the game winner.

In earning this win, the Bears didn’t emerge as some contender ready to take the North and never give it back. This was their first divisional win under the watch of Eberflus and seemed destined to mark another game squandered away. This is still a football team that puts itself in peril and struggles to handle prosperity. But on Monday night, the Bears found a way to win.

The Bears forced four interceptions on veteran quarterback Joshua Dobbs, whose feel-good story in leading the Vikings came to an abrupt end. Chicago’s defense mostly dominated this game and bailed out an offense that struggled in its own right.

When the Bears needed to flip the script of another looming loss, quarterback Justin Fields delivered a 36-yard completion to top target DJ Moore that set up Santos’ go-ahead kick through the uprights. Fields was facing a pivotal 3rd-and-10 from the Vikings’ 49-yard line and the game was in his hands. He felt calm in the pocket in tracking Moore’s one-cut break that led him to an opening over the middle.

Fields came through in the clutch.

“We haven’t let our record define who we are,” Fields said. “We know who we are as a team. We know what we’re capable of. It’s really just going out there and doing it.

“I really just wanted to prove to my teammates that I had their back. The way the defense was playing all game, I had to come back and at least give us a chance at the end.”

The Bears’ defense produced another strong performance on Monday night, marking four takeaways in each of the last two games. That hasn’t happened since a two-game stretch early in the 2018 campaign. The Vikings were held to just 242 total yards of offense and boos rained down for that group inside U.S. Bank Stadium.

With key players like Montez Sweat, Tremaine Edmunds, and Jaylon Johnson emerging as building blocks for the Bears, this defense is emerging as a great strength.

The Bears have a winning formula that’s led by this defense.

“Honestly, I think it’s belief,” Edwards said.

There’s great uncertainty looming this offseason for the Bears, with new president Kevin Warren expected to take charge of an organization that has struggled considerably over the last decade. The rebuilding plan led by general manager Ryan Poles will be brought under the microscope. Eberflus’ grasp as a head coach will be closely examined. Fields’ future as Chicago’s quarterback will be evaluated as well. And that’s just the beginning of this critical assessment period.

The Bears are playing out the stretch run of this season looking to prove that they are trending towards lasting success. Promising results have been lacking.

This was a win that revealed the Bears are still bought in for what could be to come.

2. 1-2 Punch for the win

With the game on the line, Justin Fields made the throw to DJ Moore that led the Bears to a win.

Fields found DJ Moore wide open over the middle for a 36-yard completion that beat the Vikings’ zone coverage. Rookie receiver Tyler Scott ran a route to the outside that drew safety Camryn Bynum deep in coverage. Moore took advantage of the opportunity.

“They left me wide open,” Moore said. “I don’t think that was a smart choice.”

Fields and Moore connected 11 times for 114 yards during Monday night’s win. Moore now has 70 receptions for 1,003 yards and 6 touchdowns in his first season with the Bears. He is well positioned to shatter many of his own career-best marks as well as some of Chicago’s receiving records.

Moore has been the catalyst for Fields’ growth in his third season. That much came through on the pivotal play in this game as the Bears drew up a play for their top playmaker and Fields delivered in the clutch.

Fields was 6-26 as the Bears’ starting quarterback entering this game. He finished 27-of-37 for 217 yards on the game, including a pair of fumbles lost in the fourth quarter that nearly cost this game entirely.

“After the second (fumble) I was sick to my stomach,” Fields said.

But Fields produced the key strike to Moore that changed this game, lifting the Bears from a potentially catastrophic loss and leading this coveted win.

Fields and the Bears took over with 2:29 remaining in the game from their own 22-yard line and Fields drove them into position to take the lead.

“I’ve always believed in him,” said guard Teven Jenkins. “You see him day and day out being a hard worker.

“I trusted him in that drive to win that game for us.”

Like the Bears as a team, Fields was able to respond from his own setbacks and produce the winning moment in this game.

Fields found Moore over the middle and he made it a winning night.

“A great bounce back,” Moore said. “He had the fumble and then he came back like a true leader does and somebody does on the rise as a young quarterback to just block that out and make that throw.”

3. Clutch Cairo

A 14-play, 47-yard opening drive for the Bears elapsed more than nine minutes from the clock and seemed to set the tone for this game. But it resulted in no points on the board as Cairo Santos missed just his second field goal of the season.

Santos responded with four field goals the rest of the game, including the game-winning 30-yard kick with 10 seconds remaining in regulation.

“It’s really the life of the kicker,” Santos said. “It’s not perfect. We’re not perfect. We strive to be. But we have to have short memories. Just thankful I got the opportunity throughout the game to just keep doing what I do.”

Santos hit on a 55-yard field goal that tied his career-long kick, which came during his first season with the Bears in 2020.

The Bears set up Santos in a fire drill in the final minute, working with no timeouts and forcing the Vikings to drain their remaining two timeouts. Fields knelt three times in a row, bringing out Santos on a fourth-down kick with the clock moving down.

Santos stayed calm under the circumstances and delivered the winning kick.

“We work on that every week,” Santos said. “That was my first time doing it (in a game).

“We executed it.”

4. Hit & Miss

Cornerback Jaylon Johnson hauled in his third interception of the season early in the second quarter of this game, jumping a route to receiver Jordan Addison and making the play at full extension.

It was a show of Johnson’s coverage strengths, though he later was left to lament another missed opportunity. Johnson let a sure pick-six go through his hands late in the second quarter. He squatted on the Bears’ sidelines in disbelief after the play.

“Eyes on the quarterback,” Johnson said. “He was really staring him down the whole time. I made a good break on the ball. I think I was seeing a little too much purple in the end zone instead of seeing that ball in my hands.”

Johnson had a similar play during the Bears’ loss to the Lions last week as he jumped a route near the goal line but couldn’t haul in an interception that almost certainly would’ve gone for a 98-yard touchdown return. It was a play Johnson’s team needed in a loss at Ford Field.

As Johnson continues to seek a long-term contract extension from the Bears, those plays he is missing will haunt him.

Fortunately for the Bears, they didn’t need to dwell on this one.

5. Taunted story

A penalty flag emerged to the field in the second quarter as Jaylon Johnson ran his interception into Vikings territory.

Referee Alex Kemp announced that Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon was penalized for removing his helmet before returning to the sidelines. Gordon displayed that his facemask was broken, which was why he had taken his helmet off.

The penalty was then changed to a taunting penalty. Gordon was not clear about why the penalty was called.

“So, they saw me taunting and then they changed it to taunting?” Gordon asked. “Or they thought they saw taunting and then changed it to taunting?

“It is what it is. I wasn’t tripping.”

The Bears will turn that play in to the NFL with hopes of clarity on the call. The offense went three-and-out following that penalty, turning four turnovers forced into just three points.

The Bears will break for the bye week with plenty to clean up for the final five games, but with the winning feeling to reward their work.

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