Minnesota Vikings

With 2019 already lost, it's hard to find any value in the Bears' final win

With 2019 already lost, it's hard to find any value in the Bears' final win

MINNEAPOLIS – Everything about the Bears’ eighth win should have been celebrated. With a little over four minutes left and down by one, Mitch Trubisky led the offense on a 15-play, 71-yard drive – which included four first downs – en route to another game-winning field goal from Eddy Pineiro. It was Matt Nagy’s fourth win in as many tries against the Vikings, and solidified a 4-2 record against the NFC North. David Montgomery rushed for more than 100 yards, the defense forced multiple turnovers, and Allen Robinson had nine catches. 

In a vacuum, there was a lot to like about Sunday’s win – and if not for some pesky “context,” Bears fans might have been able to celebrate. Instead, the Bears left it all on the table for nothing, because everyone else at the table had already left. 

“[This season] went exactly how our record is: .500,” Tarik Cohen said. “I feel like we had ups and downs. We just couldn’t get really consistent on the offensive side, and that shows in the record.” 

If not for the wall-rattling bass of Club Dub’s latest hit, it would have been hard to tell that the Bears beat a division rival on the road. There’s just not a lot to hang your hat on when it takes 58 minutes and 50 seconds to put away a Minnesota team that had basically anyone you’ve ever heard of watching safely from the sidelines. Quarterback Sean Mannion, starting for the first time in almost three years, went 12-for-21 for 126 yards and two interceptions. But he was not sacked once – even with the Vikings starting backups at right AND left tackle. Mike Boone, who was listed as the fourth-string running back on Minnesota’s play card, ran for 148 yards and averaged over eight yards per carry.

If rookie receiver Riley Ridley doesn't make a fourth-quarter, 32-yard catch on fourth-and-9, that’s who the Bears would have lost to. 

“We have guys that fight,” Matt Nagy said afterward. “It’s not where we want to be, it’s not acceptable – we know that. But we’re going to learn from it.” 

The Bears have a lot of learning to do if they want to get back to the top of a division that was, frankly, winnable again this year. In a strange way, it’s almost impressive that Nagy and Co. were able to win twice as many divisional games as they lost and still finish in third place. The Double Doink may have ended Nagy’s first season with a (soul-crushing) bang, but there was still light at the end of last offseason’s tunnel. The stark reality and twisted irony of his second season – which finished on a relative high note, no less – is that the future looks far more uncertain. 

“This is a lesson, man. This is a life lesson,” said safety Eddie Jackson, who sealed the win with an interception as time expired. “We know how we felt. We’ve faced adversity, so we know what it feels like.

“We know the team’s not going to be the same. That’s how it works in the NFL. There are going to be changes. But for the guys that will be here next year, we all know the feeling. I’m pretty sure everyone’s ready for 2020.”

Before that can happen, there are about a dozen or so decisions standing in the Bears’ way. This is not a team that requires a few tweaks here and there. GM Ryan Pace needs to decide on Trubisky's fifth-year option, one of his starting safeties, and 75% of the inside linebackers. An entire side of the offensive line needs to be rebooted.

This offseason needs to be felt across all corners of the locker room, and if it’s not, 2020 may be full of wins like Sunday’s – ugly, underwhelming, and ultimately meaningless. 

Takeaways: Bears have a long way to go before they're playoff contenders again

Takeaways: Bears have a long way to go before they're playoff contenders again

MINNEAPOLIS – Three thoughts from the Bears’ 21-19 win against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon: 

The Bears have a LONG way to go before they’re considered playoff contenders again

Even in the win, the Bears didn't really impress on any level. Mitch Trubisky (26-for-37, 207 yards) was efficient but unspectacular in the same way that Sean Mannion, the Vikings’ backup who hadn’t started in almost three years, was. The offense managed to score only one touchdown against Minnesota’s backups and the defense managed to allow 174 rushing yards against Minnesota’s backups. Did I mention that Minnesota was playing its backups? The offensive line, which allowed four sacks and six QB hits, showed impressive push on a 14-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and then couldn’t move the ball two yards, over two plays, only two minutes later. 

The defense didn’t record a *single* sack, and hit Mannion only three times. To its credit, Chuck Pagano’s unit forced some early turnovers that gave the Bears a chance to get out ahead of a Vikings team just BEGGING for a reason to pack it in, but – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – the Bears’ red zone offense couldn’t capitalize. The only thing Sunday proved was that Bears players need to play better, Bears coaches need to coach better, and Bears execs need to make better decisions. This season was an abject failure across the board, and as it stands on Sunday afternoon, the Bears appear much closer to the NFL’s flotsam than they are to a playoff-caliber team.

Allen Robinson is the Bears’ present and future 

It cannot be overstated just how many issues the Bears have to address this offseason, and somehow, locking up Robinson long-term has steadily climbed its way to the top of the list. Matt Nagy, Trubisky and company clearly wanted to get Robinson to 100 receptions on the season, which is about the saddest silver lining you could have imagined when the Bears were getting ready for their 100th season. Robinson made some tough catches on Sunday afternoon, and generally still looked engaged on a day when that couldn’t be said of everyone. He finished the game with nine receptions for 71 yards, which is actually impressive when you factor in how horizontal the Bears’ offense went all day. Watching the offense has been about as thrilling as a root canal this season but with way more pain, so it’s nice to see *someone* play well.

Eddy Pineiro’s first season could have gone a lot worse 

Even before he hit the game-winner, Pineiro had a quietly impressive day, hitting all three field goal attempts to cap off a strong performance over the last quarter of his season. Think about his year: he won the hearts of an entire city – and a butt load of free Snickers bars – when he nailed the game-winning field goal against Denver in Week 2, and then *poof* the Bears’ kicking issues were solved. Then he missed a game-winner against the Chargers and *poof* he didn’t attempt a field goal for the following eight quarters … until he went 0-for-2 in an absolutely disastrous 60 minutes against the Rams in Los Angeles. In the span of 16 games, the 24-year-old has gone from a messiah to a pariah and then settled somewhere in the middle. You’d like to see the Bears trust him a bit more from distance, but building up the confidence of your young-but-talented kicker during a lost season isn’t the worst thing in the world.

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Bears 21, Vikings 19: Whose arrows are up and down after hollow season-ending win

Bears 21, Vikings 19: Whose arrows are up and down after hollow season-ending win

MINNEAPOLIS — Well, it’s over. And I’m not just saying that to be dramatic, like after the Eagles, Rams, Packers and Chiefs games – it’s actually, like, OVER over. After an entirely underwhelming 21-19 win against the Vikings’ backups, the Bears’ season ends with eight wins and eight losses. For the final time in 2019, here’s where the arrows are pointing: 

ARROW UP – Eddy Pineiro 

He hit the game-winner, so there’s that. Otherwise, Pineiro has been the Bears’ most consistent offensive weapon not named Allen Robinson since the Rams’ loss, and he finished his first season on another strong note. He hit three field goals in the first half alone (26, 33, 34) and ended the year hitting his last 11 attempts. And yeah, only one of those – a 46-yarder against the Chiefs – was longer than 40 yards, but for a young kicker, finishing 2019 consistently is a great end to an up-and-down season. Matt Nagy has been adamant that Pineiro is the guy going forward, and how quickly the head coach brought out the kicking unit in fourth-and-short situations would seemingly back that notion up.

ARROW DOWN – O-Line

With Bobby Massie and Rashaad Coward sitting out, the offensive line was probably doomed from the start. With that said, Sunday’s game was an emphatic reminder that a unit that felt so cohesive when the season started needs a major overhaul in the offseason. The Vikings sacked Trubisky “only” four times, but they were in his face all afternoon (6 QBH).

To the line's credit, David Montgomery’s 14-yard touchdown run in the beginning of the second half wouldn’t have gotten half as far if not for a tremendous push by the unit as a whole. It’s a bit curious that Ted Larsen got so much run over Alex Bars, who’s viewed as a starter-in-waiting by those at Halas Hall, but the Bears have never been comfortable giving Bars a big percentage of snaps this season, so his light day isn’t entirely surprising.

ARROW UP – Inside Linebackers, again

It was another great day for Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis. KPL snagged a bobbling Mike Boone reception out of thin air for an interception, which would ultimately lead to three points. Not to be outdone, Kwiatkoski also made a great individual play on Boone (poor guy), wrapping him up in the Vikings’ end zone – shoutout to Pat O’Donnell’s punt placement – for a safety. Considering how vital this game was to the salaries of Kwiatkoski and KPL heading into next season, making plays early and often was a great sign for them and the future of the Bears’ ILB position.  

ARROW DOWN – Matt Nagy 

Maybe it’s ultimately not Nagy's decision – though that would be indicting in itself – but I’m not sure what Anthony Miller is still doing on the return team. Miller has battled upper body injuries his entire career, so having him be the focal point of the most physically punishing play in football seems … misguided. The moment he took a shot to the left side of his upper body, you knew that was the end of his season. Then there’s the fact that the Bears’ offensive game plan looked more tailored to going sideways than going forward, which is typically not a useful way to score points.

It got better in the second half, but why the Bears needed to play so conservatively for the first 2 1/2 quarters is confounding. As other eliminated teams got crazy with their play calls for the final game of the year, the Bears continued embracing their conservative approach. There was also the choice to kick a 23-yard field goal on fourth-and-2 from the 8-yard line, which is not an objectively incorrect decision, but bland all the same. What would have been the harm in opening the playbook for one last pointless game?

Honorable Mention Up: Allen Robinson (nine catches, 71 yards), David Montgomery (23 carries, 113 yards, one touchdown), The ‘Skol’ Chant – sorry, it’s cool

Honorable Mention Down: The secondary’s interest in tackling, staying healthy for one final game, the 2019 season in general 

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