With week 15 having wrapped up for the Chicago Bears, it’s time to go back and recap another painful Bears loss in an already lost season.
1) Let’s start with rookie cornerback Thomas Graham Jr., who had seven tackles and three pass breakups in his first career start. When the Bears drafted Graham Jr. in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, he was labeled as a hidden gem and future starter. Despite just one start, Graham Jr. did more than enough to show why he can be the Bears answer at CB moving forward, opposite Jaylon Johnson. For a team that will have a lot of needs to address in 2022, having two starting CB’s on rookie deals will provide cap flexibility.
2) Justin Fields had his ups and downs in this game but at the end of the day, Fields performance was more encouraging than most would admit. After orchestrating five trips to the redzone, the Bears scored a touchdown just once but it was Fields leading the way on each of those drives. Moral of the story is that while Fields’ progress may not seem apparent, the Bears are at least moving the ball but failing to execute in key situations. Essentially, the Bears’ offensive struggles aren’t Fields fault, who’s been dealt a bad hand.
3) Robert Quinn deserves no more slander for the rest of the season. Quinn had two sacks on Monday night and now has 16 total sacks on the season. With three games left, Quinn needs just one more sack to break the Bears franchise record for single-season sacks, which is set at 17.0 by Richard Dent. After last season, many assumed Quinn was set to regress even more in 2021 but so far, he’s been an investment that’s paid off big time.
4) Matt Nagy was the playcaller on Monday for the Bears due to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor being out as a result of COVID-19. Nagy’s playcalling was about as predictable as it’s been since the much-lambasted head coach arrived in Chicago four seasons ago. Nagy’s inability to call the right plays in the redzone hurt the Bears, forcing the defense to win the game.
5) Justin Fields threw 39 times, completing just 26 passes. When the Bears switched to Fields, the offense was more balanced but still was run-first, with everything clicking. Over the last few weeks, the Bears have abandoned their run-first philosophy and conveyed that it’s up to the passing attack to win the game.
6) Credit to defensive coordinator Sean Desai and the Bears defense. Despite missing Jaylon Johnson, Eddie Jackson, and Tashaun Gipson, Desai found a way to hold Vikings QB Kirk Cousins to just 87 passing yards and 3.6 yards per attempt. Cousins isn’t elite by any means but the Bears secondary got the job done, which is all that matters.
7) If anything, this was a game that the Bears could’ve won with ease. The Vikings didn’t necessarily look like the better team but the Bears’ own mistakes actually created some momentum and allowed the Vikings to capitalize on missed opportunities.
8) Robert Quinn’s criticism of the refereeing is warranted. In an age where the game continues to be more QB friendly, Quinn alluded to how it’s harder to play defense in the NFL and that sometimes, calls that seem to be too close, should just be let go.
“”These refs seem like they’re controlling the game a little too much. So, when a play is clean and they’re throwing a flag for something that they thought they could change a game [with] just by one flag … let guys play ball. If this was a couple years ago, half of this stuff wouldn’t even be called. But now, they got so many of these stupid rules, they dang near in a ref’s hands [and] could change the game in any given moment.”
Quinn has every right to be upset, especially as a player who’s having such a resurgent season after being named to his third Pro Bowl.
9) Let’s talk about LB Roquan Smith being snubbed from the Pro Bowl. Smith has emerged as one of the best LB’s in the NFL over the last few years but why does he keep getting snubbed is a major point of contention. Smith is every bit talented as Darius Leonard, Bobby Wagner, and Denzel Perryman. At the end of the day, while Smith may not get the recognition he’s earned, the Bears should be content knowing they have a blue-chip player and a leader in Smith.
10) Minnesota averaged just 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. While running back Dalvin Cook has 89 total yards, the Bears limited Cook to just 3.2 yards per carry, an impressive feat as Akiem Hicks returned to the lineup and provided a spark to a defense that badly needed one. Credit once again goes to Sean Desai for being able to put together a solid game plan, with the Bears’ defensive line dominating in the trenches.