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.
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.
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.