Just when you thought things couldn’t get any stranger than they were in 2020, say hello to 2021. Due to positive Covid tests, the Chicago Bears had to activate eight players from the practice squad to suit up for Monday night’s home game against Minnesota.
It would have made for a great Cinderella story, a bunch of practice players taking on a Vikings team, fighting to stay alive in the playoff hunt. Instead, inopportune turnovers, bad penalties, and the inability to score in the red zone doomed the Bears yet again.
“You look at this and you see where we had five possessions inside the 21-yard line and came away with three points. It’s not good enough, ” Matt Nagy said after the game. “I was really proud of our defense. I thought, man, to have your entire secondary out, the way they played, it was relentless, twelve possessions, six three-and-outs, the interception. Just you felt the energy, you felt the passion, you felt the fight.”
And fight they did. The Monday Night Football announcers could not stop talking about DB Thomas Graham, Jr., and what a great job he did against the Minnesota receivers. QB Kirk Cousins finished with 87 yards passing, mainly due to the patchwork secondary, and the persistent pass rush.
Cousins spoke about the great effort put for by the patchwork secondary of Chicago. “It was an interesting game because they played a lot of two deep, so they weren’t trying to ask any new or young players to put them in a tough spot. They were a lot of two deep. Weren’t a lot of chances to throw the ball down the field. There weren’t a lot of chances for explosive gains, but I don’t know if we threw it too much. I just think that it was hard to ever get anything more than a few yards because of the way they were kind of keeping everything in front of them.”
Nagy added, “So for our defense to come out and get the amount of three-and-outs that we got, man, that’s impressive. That’s what probably is what’s frustrating is that you come into this game and you know you’re depleted in the secondary and you figure, okay, yeah, we’ll see what happens with them trying to throw the ball on you and do different things, and then we can go and score points on offense.”
Vikes coach Mike Zimmer was happy to get out of Chicago with a victory. “Good to get a win tonight,” he stated. “Again, I thought there was a lot of good things. Some things we need to definitely clean up. I thought we were in control of the game for the most part the entire time. It was disappointing offensively. We didn’t move the ball very well, I didn’t think, in the second half. Gave them too many opportunities, and defensively we had some turnovers. I thought they played real hard. I thought we did a decent job on the quarterback running, but for the most part I thought we played a good football team. Their pass rush is definitely outstanding with Quinn and Hicks, all of the guys they have, but it was good to get a win tonight.”
One of the key plays was a fourth and one at the Minnesota 21 that Chicago was unable to convert. There was some confusion at the line of scrimmage, but as Fields rolled out to his right, the Vikings had covered the play, and Justin took a sack. “I mean, that’s football,” he said. “You win some, you lose some. I think that’s the name of the game. I mean, you’ve got to give credit to them. At the end of the day it just can’t be all us. But again, I think overall, I think that we did shoot ourselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties, and I think if we get rid of those, then we win the ballgame. But yeah, at the same time, you do have to give the defense credit. Sometimes they’re going to guard and play well.”
Darnell Mooney (five catches for 63 yards) echoed his teammates frustration. “Yeah, it was just a recycle of last year when we played them on Monday night. We didn’t score at all last year, and it was just a repetitive thing. Definitely frustrating just not being able to score and honestly just keep telling yourself, damn, we need to score, we need to score. Very frustrating, though.”
Nagy: “We have to understand that you have to score in the red zone. Field goals do you no good. Missed field goals do you no good. You need touchdowns. That’s what this came down to, nine total penalties, five personal fouls, one including myself.”
It was an emotional game, and I think that it sucks losing, but when I’m talking to the guys and just knowing for me to understand where they’re at and to see their fight, I appreciate that.-Matt Nagy
Fields showed a lot of poise down the stretch when the Bears finally went no-huddle. Why it took three quarters to get there is a good question. “I think outside the pocket,” commented Fields. “I think I do pretty well there. I think when we, like, do no-huddle plays, I think our offense is very efficient doing that just because we know those plays. It’s literally no thinking. We line up and run those plays, and I know where all the answers are to whatever coverage they give us to those hurry-up offense. I think that kind of gets our offense in a rhythm.”
Chicago has three games left, and none of their opponents have a winning record, including a rematch at season’s end at Minnesota. Perhaps the team can build on the effort and salvage a win or two. The best chance comes against the Giants at Soldier Field on January 2nd.