The 2019 Chicago Bears entered their home game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday without Kyle Long, Taylor Gabriel, Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, or Roquan Smith. Six plays into the game, Mitchell Trubisky joined that list, putting Chase Daniel into the fold as the Bears’ starting quarterback. Minnesota brought with them the NFL’s leading rusher, Dalvin Cook, as well as a bevy of pass-catching options like Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs to complement a stout defense.
Yet at the end of the game, Matt Nagy was yelling “BOOM” in a Bears locker room celebrating their 16-6 victory and their third win of the season. While Club Dub raged on, Minnesota’s star receiver openly questioned the ability of their quarterback:
“At some point, you’re not going to be able to run the ball for 180 yards, even with the best running back in the NFL. That’s when you have to be able to throw the ball. You have to be able to make plays. You have to be able to hit the deep balls. You have to do that.”-Vikings WR Adam Thielen
The type of defense the Bears played on Sunday can have that effect on a team. Despite losses to key players across the defense, the Bears’ depth showed out. Nick Williams was a monster filling in for Hicks, collecting seven total tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery. Roy Robertson-Harris, playing opposite Williams, made the most out of his increase in reps by making three tackles and one-and-a-half sacks. Nick Kwiatkowski, filled in for Roquan Smith, who did not play for personal issues, and led the team with 10 tackles and a sack.
“It’s a level of expectation,” Khalil Mack said of the Bears’ “next man up” mentality. “It’s the standard that has been set. These guys held it down for me when I was out. It’s the expectation for me to hold it down and for everyone else to hold it down. That’s what you want to see, guys stepping up.”
Mack had a typically dominant day himself, giving Vikings’ blockers headaches to the point of putting three guys on him.
Mack finished his day with a forced fumble, one-and-a-half sacks and two quarterback hits, contributing to the Bears’ six total sacks of Kirk Cousins. The unit as a whole had two takeaways and bottled up a Vikings rushing attack that piled up over 170 yards in each of their first three games. That number dropped to 40 against the Bears, who allowed only 2.5 yards per carry.
“Anytime you take a team that averages 193 yards in rush yards per game and you have 40 or 50 yards rushing and you hold that running back who’s a really good running back to that minimal amount of yards, you’re doing something right. And those guys, they stepped up. They wanted it. It was a challenge to them, and then again, our coaches put those guys in great positions. These are the fun ones. They all deserve credit.”-Matt Nagy
The Bears survived the loss of Trubisky on the offensive side of the ball, not missing a beat with backup Chase Daniel coming in. The offense stayed in rhythm and worked on time once Daniel took over.
“I’ve said it before, I’ve been in the league a long time,” Daniel said. “I don’t want to show my age too much, but out there when you get your opportunities, you never really know when they’re going to come as a backup quarterback. My mindset is always just be ready, be ready, and it was crazy because it felt like Mitch’s injury was happening in slow motion.”
Daniel’s connection with the offensive line appeared to be a strength, as he navigated and manipulated the pocket comfortably to open up throwing lanes. Daniel is not a threat to scramble, which essentially negates the potential for him to quickly break the pocket. Because of this, the offensive line knows where he will be when he hit the end of his drop back, allowing them to be more confident in the angles they take in their sets. He added after the game Sunday, “The two starts last year really helped me just with communication, especially with the offensive line. We’re doing a bunch of no-huddle stuff. So, it felt good.”
Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a huge impact on Daniel’s efficiency, making multiple leaping catches to move the chains and racking up 77 total yards. Javon Wims, a former seventh-rounder subbing for the injured Taylor Gabriel, hauled in four receptions for 56 yards, including this 37-yard pick up that left Vikings corner Trae Waynes in the dust.
“All of us put ourselves through this grind in practice and throughout the whole offseason for moments like this,” Wims said after the biggest came of his career. “When one of our brothers goes down, we just step up and fill that void.”
It’s an apt quote from Wims after the Bears completely dismantled the Vikings. Daniel’s stat line of 22-of-30 for 195 yards and a touchdown won’t make anyone’s eyes pop out, but for a defense as deep and talented as the Bears, it’s enough. Minnesota’s offense looked completely inept after three weeks of positives, and the way the defense is constructed gives them room for injuries.
Roquan Smith’s status is still up in the air. Scratched for “personal reasons,” Nagy would not get any deeper into what exactly those reasons are on Sunday or Monday. Trubisky appears to be out again this Sunday against the Raiders, but the hope will be that he’s ready to go after the following bye week. Official word from Nagy or the Bears has yet to come but the injury being on his non-throwing shoulder bodes well for his timeline. Until then, it is Chase Daniel’s show, and he will get a chance to prove what he has on the international stage as the Bears travel to London next week to face Khalil Mack’s former team, the Oakland Raiders.