The Bears’ 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at Soldier Field was the best win of Matt Nagy’s time in Chicago.
The Bears knew they’d be without five starters before kickoff. No Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols and Roquan Smith against a run-heavy Vikings team with the league’s leading rusher in Dalvin Cook? Ominous.
Kyle Long would be missing from a struggling offensive line. Not good.
Taylor Gabriel, who had the Bears’ only touchdown receptions of 2019, was also out. An offense needing as many weapons as possible would be down one.
Then Mitch Trubisky hurt his shoulder six plays into the game. Chase Daniel, a backup with four career starts, would have to take over.
Less noticeable than Trubisky’s injury was one to backup right guard Ted Larsen, which forced Rashaad Coward into the game. Coward not only had never played an NFL snap before Sunday, he never played guard — not in preseason, not in training camp practices, and in all likelihood, not in any of the Bears’ practices behind closed doors over the last year.
Any of these would’ve been a convenient excuse for the Bears losing to the Vikings on Sunday. None of them were.
The Bears showed remarkable resiliency in the face of a string of misfortunes that rivaled Mr. Burns’ Springfield power plant team. Stars like Allen Robinson and Khalil Mack showed up, of course. But it was the play of guys on the margins of the roster that won the Bears Sunday’s game in such controlling fashion.
On defense, Nick Williams and Roy Robertson-Harris bossed the Vikings’ offensive line, combining for 3 1/2 sacks and doing their part to keep Cook from any semblance of success. Nick Kwiatkoski was outstanding in place of Smith, and on consecutive plays late in the third quarter blew up a screen and strip-sacked Kirk Cousins — plays which came as soon as the Vikings entered Bears territory for the first time in the second half.
On offense, Daniel was efficient and looked comfortable operating Nagy’s offense, especially in hitting intermediate throws in the first half. Coward held his own, and Javon Wims snagged a 37-yard deep ball that wound up setting up a field goal.
Massive credit goes to both coach Matt Nagy and defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano for pushing the right buttons with so many important players missing. That duo thoroughly out-coached Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
On a day when everything seemed like it was going wrong, everything went right. The Bears had to win this game. Teams that start 0-2 in their own division don’t usually go on to make the playoffs. And against the odds, the Bears won.
And that makes what we saw Sunday the best win Nagy's had in Chicago.