MINNEAPOLIS – Everything about the Bears’ eighth win should have been celebrated. With a little over four minutes left and down by one, Mitch Trubisky led the offense on a 15-play, 71-yard drive – which included four first downs – en route to another game-winning field goal from Eddy Pineiro. It was Matt Nagy’s fourth win in as many tries against the Vikings, and solidified a 4-2 record against the NFC North. David Montgomery rushed for more than 100 yards, the defense forced multiple turnovers, and Allen Robinson had nine catches.
In a vacuum, there was a lot to like about Sunday’s win – and if not for some pesky “context,” Bears fans might have been able to celebrate. Instead, the Bears left it all on the table for nothing, because everyone else at the table had already left.
“[This season] went exactly how our record is: .500,” Tarik Cohen said. “I feel like we had ups and downs. We just couldn’t get really consistent on the offensive side, and that shows in the record.”
If not for the wall-rattling bass of Club Dub’s latest hit, it would have been hard to tell that the Bears beat a division rival on the road. There’s just not a lot to hang your hat on when it takes 58 minutes and 50 seconds to put away a Minnesota team that had basically anyone you’ve ever heard of watching safely from the sidelines. Quarterback Sean Mannion, starting for the first time in almost three years, went 12-for-21 for 126 yards and two interceptions. But he was not sacked once – even with the Vikings starting backups at right AND left tackle. Mike Boone, who was listed as the fourth-string running back on Minnesota’s play card, ran for 148 yards and averaged over eight yards per carry.
If rookie receiver Riley Ridley doesn't make a fourth-quarter, 32-yard catch on fourth-and-9, that’s who the Bears would have lost to.
“We have guys that fight,” Matt Nagy said afterward. “It’s not where we want to be, it’s not acceptable – we know that. But we’re going to learn from it.”
The Bears have a lot of learning to do if they want to get back to the top of a division that was, frankly, winnable again this year. In a strange way, it’s almost impressive that Nagy and Co. were able to win twice as many divisional games as they lost and still finish in third place. The Double Doink may have ended Nagy’s first season with a (soul-crushing) bang, but there was still light at the end of last offseason’s tunnel. The stark reality and twisted irony of his second season – which finished on a relative high note, no less – is that the future looks far more uncertain.
“This is a lesson, man. This is a life lesson,” said safety Eddie Jackson, who sealed the win with an interception as time expired. “We know how we felt. We’ve faced adversity, so we know what it feels like.
“We know the team’s not going to be the same. That’s how it works in the NFL. There are going to be changes. But for the guys that will be here next year, we all know the feeling. I’m pretty sure everyone’s ready for 2020.”
Before that can happen, there are about a dozen or so decisions standing in the Bears’ way. This is not a team that requires a few tweaks here and there. GM Ryan Pace needs to decide on Trubisky's fifth-year option, one of his starting safeties, and 75% of the inside linebackers. An entire side of the offensive line needs to be rebooted.
This offseason needs to be felt across all corners of the locker room, and if it’s not, 2020 may be full of wins like Sunday’s – ugly, underwhelming, and ultimately meaningless.