Bears Grades: Defense achieves 'finish' goal, shuts down Vikings in win

Bears Grades: Defense achieves 'finish' goal, shuts down Vikings in win

The Bears defense played with an obvious fire Monday night in shutting down the Minnesota Vikings. But the more important element was not how hot the fire burned, but how long.

“We’ve played a lot of good football on defense [this season] but we haven’t finished games,” said defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. “I’m happy we played this whole 60 minutes, not 30, not 45, the whole 60.”

The defense forced five straight punts to open the game, the best start since stopping Detroit’s first four possessions in Week 4, and the last four of the stops were three-and-outs. The Vikings converted just two of 10 third downs through three quarters. The defense in total hit quarterback Sam Bradford nine times on 37 dropbacks.

Defensive line: A

Minnesota has been one of the NFL’s poorest rushing teams and the Bears kept them that way while bringing enough pressure to disrupt Bradford. The Vikings rushed for just 57 yards, the second time (Jacksonville) in three games that the Bears have limited an opponent to less than 60 rushing yards.

Cornelius Washington took another step as a nickel rusher with a pursuit sack of Sam Bradford in the first quarter, his second of the season. “He started right but then he came back around and got to the outside,” Washington said. “Then I had to do all that running. I was thinking, ‘I got to get him, got to get him,’ because it would’ve been my fault.”

Big Corn inadvertently left the bench early after an apparent incomplete pass, drawing a correct but unfortunate unsportsmanlike-conduct flag for leaving the bench too soon.

Hicks was a force, with two sacks and two tackles for loss. Jonathan Bullard closed down on a Vikings first-quarter run to force a third down Minnesota could not convert.

Willie Young, operating as an end in nickel personnel, deflected a screen pass in the third quarter after drawing a holding penalty that effectively was as good as a sack for creating a long-yardage conversion the Vikings couldn’t make.

[MORE GRADES: Offense responds well to Jay Cutler's return in win over Vikings]

Linebacker: A

Leonard Floyd used a superb counter move of speed and then power against Jake Long for a second-quarter sack, his third in two games. “We were studying [Long] all week and I knew he was pretty much a ‘no-hands’ guy so I knew I had to use a lot of speed-to-power to get to the QB,” Floyd said. “I think everybody in the OLB room did a good job.”

Pernell McPhee, in his second game after a missed year until the Green Bay game, came off the bench in the first quarter with some significant pressure on Bradford, which built into a second-quarter sack on a third down. He also had a near-sack hit of Bradford to force an incompletion. McPhee accounted for a sack, tackle, forced fumble and three quarterback hits

Danny Trevathan delivered a pass deflection in Bears territory, one of two for him. Jerrell Freeman led the Bears with seven tackles.

Secondary: A

The Vikings hurt the Bears through the air last year. This year, with pressure up front, the Bears kept Stephon Diggs relatively in check, with eight catches but a moderate 76 yards and only one longer than 16 yards. Tracy Porter will get credit for a pass-defensed in the first quarter but might’ve had an interception if he’d been able to get turned around in time, with good position.

“Sacks don’t come for this defense without corners who are covering their butts off,” said Hicks, who had two of the Bears’ five sacks.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Special teams: B+

Cre’Von LeBlanc again put the offense in a deep hole by not fielding a punt, allowing 20 yards of roll on Minnesota’s second punt to leave the offense at the Chicago 5 in the first quarter. LeBlanc recovered for a 13-yard return to put the offense into plus-territory in the second quarter.

Pat O’Donnell again topped 40 yards in net (41.4) on five punts. Connor Barth hit his sixth straight field goal, from 30 yards in the first quarter for an early lead. He converted from 28 yards in the second.

Sherrick McManis delivered a punt-tackle inside the Minnesota 20 in the fourth quarter when the Vikings would have gained a boost from field position after stopping the Bears’ offense. thinks that Matt Nagy is a very average head coach

USA Today thinks that Matt Nagy is a very average head coach recently ranked all of the league's head coaches, because the football season may end but creating content never will. 

The top tier consists of all the usual suspects ... except for the guy that literally won the league's award for best coach last season

Matt Nagy came in at 14 on this list, and not even the highest-ranked NFC North coach. The reasoning is a tad suspect; here's what they had to say

Matt Nagy more than delivered in his first year as the Bears' head coach, taking Chicago to the postseason for the first time since the 2010 season. What's interesting about Nagy is that his side of the ball is offense, and prior to getting hired by the Bears, he was known for his work with quarterbacks in Kansas City. Yet, it was Vic Fangio's defense that did most of the heavy lifting to get Chicago to the playoffs. A head coach does much more than run one side of the ball, though. In fact, some of them don't do that at all. They run the office, in some respects. Nagy clearly set a tone in the building, so to speak, which should not be taken lightly. Nor should Nagy's work with Mitch Trubisky, who showed improvement from Year 1 to Year 2. Why is Reich ahead of Rivera but not Nagy? Well, Nagy has yet to achieve postseason success and had stronger personnel than Reich did in 2018.

Is this fair? Probably not! But is this important? Definitely not! Still - give your incumbent COY some more love, NFL. Club Dub! Yelling boom! The visors! 

Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

USA Today

Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

Pro Football Focus doesn’t seem to expect much regression for the Bears defense, at least when it comes to run defense.

PFF analyst Mike Renner ranked every team’s ability to stop the ground game, heading into 2019, and Chicago remains on top.

The team retained its entire front seven, top-to-bottom, with the exception of Sam Acho, who spent most of last season on injured reserve anyway.

One of the biggest keys, in Renner’s analysis, is Akiem Hicks, who was among Pro Football Focus’ top performers in the running game.

“The former Saint is proving himself one of the best free agent additions in recent memory,” Renner wrote. “His 13.3 run-stop percentage was the second-highest figure of any interior defender in the NFL last season.”

The Bears allowed the fewest rushing yards and rushing touchdowns of any defense last season, and the 3.8 yards per attempt they gave up was fourth best.

With the whole gang back together for 2019, the team is in a great spot to run it back under Chuck Pagano.