One guy will enter Monday night’s Bears-Vikings tilt with zero wins in his last three games, games in which he hasn’t been able to do much right on offense.
Oh, you were thinking this was about Matt Nagy? Or Nick Foles? Or [insert offensive lineman here]? Or the Bears, who are on a three-game losing streak, in general?
This is about arguably the best running back in the NFL.
Monday night will mark Dalvin Cook’s fourth game against the Bears in his career. The previous three – all losses – have made the Bears’ lagging run game look good:
For comparison, Cook has 104 carries for 638 yards (6.1 yards/carry, 106.3 yards/game) against the Lions and has 82 carries for 434 yards (5.3 yards/carry, 86.8 yards/game) against the Packers in his career.
The last time the Bears faced Cook, they held him to 35 yards on 14 carries – and did so without Akiem Hicks or Roquan Smith on the field.
“They set good edges, we played square in the middle, we knocked them back, we tore off blocks, we tackled well,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “We never really gave them an opportunity to get going. It's got to be a lot of the same thing. But it's a different year, different team, all that stuff that's happened in the past has no significance on this game come Monday night.”
It’s a different year, sure, and Cook averaged 7.1 yards per carry and carved up 369 rushing yards in his last two games. Then again, wasn’t Derrick Henry on a roll coming into last week’s game against the Titans?
The Bears held Henry to 68 yards on 21 carries.
I know what you’re thinking – the Bears still lost to the Titans last week. But Ryan Tannehill doesn’t have a nine-game losing streak on Sunday noon games. Kirk Cousins is 0-9 – zero wins and nine losses! – on Monday Night Football in his career.
Monday is just a day of the week, but it’s hard to not feel like this is A Thing.
So if the Bears can do what they’ve done against Cook in years past and force Cousins to be the reason why his team wins on a night he’s never won on before, they’ll be in good shape to end this three-game losing streak.
"We’ve just got to get 11 hats to the ball," safety Eddie Jackson said. "That’s what we’ve been able to do the last few years to contain him, just everyone runs to the ball. We see 33 with the ball in his hands, everyone is swarming around him, trying to get him on the ground, coming up not trying to make a big, explosive hit, just tackling him and getting him on the ground. Because sometimes you come up trying to make a big hit, he can bounce off those tackles, and obviously you’ve seen him take it the distance."
This swarm-and-stop-Cook-and-make-Kirk-beat-you plan is one the Bears have followed before. It’s why I’m predicting the Bears will win Monday night.
NBC Sports' Chris Simms, by the way, agrees.
“I still think with this front seven and Chuck Pagano and not having to worry about a real awesome passing attack, it favors Chicago,” Simms said. “These are the kind of that the Bears can win, certainly, and I expect them to win this game.”