"The Bears defense is the real deal, there's no question about that," stated Chris Simms in his breakdown of the Bears Week 4 win over the Vikings. It is perhaps an understatement at this point as the Bears defense has got off to a torrid start, holding opponents to 11.3 points per game, good for second in the league. The Vikings—who possess one of the league's most potent rushing attacks—were frustrated at not being able to get anything going on the ground against the Bears (2.5 yards per game on Sunday) and had no success through the air either, leading wide receiver Adam Thielen to voice his concerns postgame.
Adam Thielen: "At some point, you're not going to be able to run the ball for 180 yards, even with the best running back in the NFL. That's when you have to be able to throw the ball. ... You have to be able to hit the deep balls."— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) September 30, 2019
"There is some truth to what Adam Thielen said," stated Simms.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins addressed Thielen's comments, admitting that there were some big plays that he missed, a sentiment that Simms went over in his breakdown.
Simms felt that Cousins was often predetermining throws against a potent Bears' D, when that is unacceptable in what they should have known was going to be a low-scoring game and was indeed a game with 22 total points scored.
Cousins was perhaps a bit too picky when going through his progressions and Simms stated that focusing too much on "one guy" and not letting plays develop made life even more difficult for Cousins against a ferocious Bears pass rush that doesn't need any help generating pressure.
"There's like certain plays where I go 'this is the coverage you want for this play', I don't understand why you wouldn't give it a chance...it's almost like 'hey I got to the top of my drop and oh I'm already looking to the check-down."
"When you're playing a great defense and you are a good football team and you're being paid $28 million a year...there's only so many times you get a chance to make a big play against these type of defenses and I think he left a handful of them out there on the field during the game."
Cousins finished Sunday with a paltry 6.5 yards per pass attempt, well below his season average of 7.4 yards per attempt. He is generally regarded as one of the better play-action passers in the league but was exposed as the Bears never letting Dalvin Cook and the Minnesota ground game get going. Cook—who is second in the league in rushing yards heading into Wednesday night—was held to 2.5 yards per carry against the Bears.
Without Cousins willing to take chances outside the general scheme of the offense, the Vikings had no way to generate a consistent attack. Simms stated that the lack of the run game was just as much of an issue as Cousins' reluctance to take shots.
"This was a game where he [Cousins] needed to make a few of those plays to back them off and then maybe they would have been able to run the ball but then they couldn't do that...they became one-dimensional and that's when the pass protection got bad."
Cousins was ultimately sacked six times against the Bears and finished with a dreadful 14.8 QBR, leading to as much online ridicule as you would expect for a QB making as much guaranteed money as he does.
Kirk Cousins: 3 years, $84M— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) September 30, 2019
Stefon Diggs: 5 years, $81M
Adam Thielen: 4 years, $64M
Vikings: 31st in passing yards per game, 32nd in passing first downs per game
There's no shame in looking human against the Bears, as even their backups can do serious damage. Simms pointed out that second-string linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski had plenty of success blitzing on third down, a concept the Bears may be borrowing from the Super Bowl champion Patriots.
"New England, they have big middle linebackers...so they can blitz 'em and you can't block them with third-down running backs," and Kwiatkoski did have 9 tackles and a sack in the win over Vikings.
The Vikings, who now sit in dead-last in the NFC North, will look to get back on track in Week 5 against the New York Giants, while the Bears defense will look to keep their momentum rolling in an across the pond matchup with the Oakland Raiders.