3 keys and a prediction: Just pride on the line for Bears in season finale vs. Vikings

3 keys and a prediction: Just pride on the line for Bears in season finale vs. Vikings

If nothing else, keep the first drive clean. 
The Bears’ struggles with first drives have been as well-documented as any of their fatal flaws, so much so that it’s basically become a running joke. A dark, sad, running joke. After getting blown out by the Chiefs, Matt Nagy talked about how wide receiver Anthony Miller’s first drive drop sort of killed the Bears’ momentum: 

“That's a good point, for us to learn and understand, man, we've all got to lock in,” Nagy said. “We're moving the ball. It's going a little bit. You can feel, getting some 1st downs. We worked on that all week.”

“ … None of it's intentional. Anthony Miller is more frustrated than anybody, more upset than anybody that he dropped it. But those are the type of deals because now you're 2nd and long, and to start a game. We can't have that. We've got to be better than that.” 

There’s not a lot, if anything, that can talk Bears’ fans off the ledge at this point, but a competent first drive would be as nice a send-off gift as anything. 

Harness the mystical powers of Chase Daniel 
Remember when Daniel came into the game and heroically led a group of backups to a 16-6 win, improving the Bears’ record to 3-1? It really happened! This year! It wasn’t the prettiest line (22-30, 195 YDS, 1 TD) of his career but ended up as one of Nagy’s favorite wins. 

“It's definitely for sure top three, top four for me,” he said. “It's a division game at home against a really good football team. That's number one. Here we are four games into the season, and you start out 0-1 and there's a little bit of what's going on. And our guys, they just stick together. No one -- everyone cares about each other at Halas Hall. We all care about one another. When you have that between coaches and players that trust each other, you get games like this.” 

Nagy has yet to lose to Minnesota as a head coach (3-0), and with most of the Vikings’ starters reportedly being held out for precautionary reasons, 4-0 doesn’t seem unreasonable. The Bears care about this game far more than the Vikings do, and there’s surely some pride/disrespect/brotherhood cliche that Nagy can draw from to get them up for one last game before they all scatter for the winter. 

Get pressure on Sean Mannion if it’s literally the last thing you do
By Pro Football Focus’ metrics, the Vikings are the seventh-worst pass blocking team in football. Sean Mannion, who hasn’t started since 2017, is going to be running the show for the Vikings. It was Minnesota who used four guys to block Khalil Mack in the 16-6 win – something he admitted he’d never seen before – but the Bears absolutely have to find a way to put pressure on a bad pass-blocking unit with an inexperienced quarterback. Mack, Leonard Floyd, Nick Kwiatkoski, Eddie Jackson – I don’t care who it is, just send them and send them a lot. 

Prediction: Bears 17, Vikings 15
The Bears clearly care about this game and the Vikings clearly do not. The Bears will want to save face and the Vikings will want to save energy. The Bears are serious when they say they’re playing for pride while the Vikings are proud to admit they’re not seriously playing. It’ll be ugly, but Nagy’s mastery of Minnesota continues. 

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Bears 17, Packers 13: Whose arrows are up and down after spoiling Favre's retirement

Bears 17, Packers 13: Whose arrows are up and down after spoiling Favre's retirement

Well, that probably felt good. 

The Bears were apparently none too pleased about being scheduled as the Packers' opponents on the night that Brett Favre was getting his number retired at Lambeau Field. In front of a packed crowd, on the (so rainy) holiday nightcap, the Bears outlasted Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in what'll surely be the most rewarding win of the upcoming 6-10 season. Here's whose arrows are up and down in the 17-13 win: 

ARROW UP – The Bears, just in general 

Good for the (4-6) Bears! They were still technically In The Hunt, but this wasn't a particularly strong team and boy is it disrespectful to be scheduled on Favre's big night. Things never break the Bears' way in this rivalry, and especially not in Green Bay. On a nationally-televised, holiday game no less? The Bears never, ever win this game. It wasn't "a good example of football" or "fun to watch," but the luxury of winning is you don't have to remember the details. 

ARROW DOWN – The passing game 

Cutler threw for 200 yards, and would have had a good bit more if there weren't so many drops. The constant, unrelenting rain that came down throughout this game obviously made the football hard to catch,  but the Bears dropped more than a couple balls. Alshon Jeffery was guilty of a couple, and Jeremey Langford's drop on 3rd and 2 in the 2nd quarter stood out as especially egregious. 

ARROW UP – Pat O'Donnell 

Eight punts for my man Pat. Eight! He racked up 323 yards while averaging 40.4 yards per punt on a night when special teams can get messy. The Packers faced tough field position all night – starting eight of their 12 drives within 20 yards of their own end zone – and O'Donnell was a big reason why. 

ARROW DOWN – Run defense 

To be fair, Eddy Lacy is huge. Lacy ran for 105 yards on 17 rushes, his longest rush of the night going for 29 yards. He was also useful out of the backfield for Green Bay, catching four balls for 34 yards – 25 of them coming on a touchdown in the first quarter. According to Pro Football Focus' grading system, this was the run defense's worst performance (36.5) of an otherwise okay season (74.1). Shea McClellin (27.7) and Christian Jones (33.8) were graded particularly poorly, though McClellin finished second on the team in tackles. 

ARROW UP – The secondary

Kyle Fuller was targeted twice in 78 snaps, and didn't allow a reception. Tracy Porter got a rare interception off Aaron Rodgers, and would have had two if not for a penalty negating the play. Bryce Callahan had an up-and-down game, but the corner had his moments and played well in coverage on the final play of the game. 

Brian Urlacher on Robert Quinn: 'I didn't love the signing'

Brian Urlacher on Robert Quinn: 'I didn't love the signing'

The best way for the Chicago Bears to take full advantage of the Khalil Mack era is to give him a competent pass-rushing running-mate who can consistently win the one-on-one opportunities he's certain to face.

Former first-round pick Leonard Floyd couldn't do it, and that's why he's no longer a Bear. It's also why Robert Quinn, who totaled 11.5 sacks for the Cowboys in 2019, was signed to a five-year, $70 million contract in free agency.

But was it money well-spent? According to Hall-of-Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, the answer is no.

“This isn’t a knock on the player, [but] I didn’t love the signing of Robert Quinn,” Urlacher said on ESPN 1000’s Waddle and Silvy show . “I liked him, he had a great season last year, really good football player. I just – you paid Khalil [Mack] all this money, he gets all this money. Akiem Hicks is a badass in the middle, making all this money. I understand you get rid of Floyd. But do you need to spend that much money on another guy up front?

“I would think you could find someone to put pressure from that side. Khalil is getting two guys no matter who is over there anyway, and with Akiem back, it’s going to be different. Once he’s healthy, we all saw how much he meant to their defense when he wasn’t in there.”

Urlacher's points are certainly valid, and a healthy Hicks should give Chicago's defense the extra juice it was lacking for most of the second half of last season. But there's also a flaw in Urlacher's reasoning. If having two 'badass' pass-rushers is great, then adding a third can result in something truly special.

Quinn has the potential to be the final piece that the Bears' defense needs to go from great to truly elite. He's registered five seasons with at least 8.5 sacks.

Did the Bears pay Quinn too much? Did they go all-in on a player who's battled injuries before last year's resurgence? Maybe. But it's a risk worth taking, especially considering how dominant this team can be if Mack and Quinn stay healthy in 2020.