MINNEAPOLIS — The Bears landed a knockout blow to the Minnesota Vikings with a 24-10 win at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, ensuring they’ll play the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild card round of the playoffs next weekend.
Matt Nagy left his starters in for the majority of the game, save for pulling right guard Kyle Long — who came off injured reserve on Saturday — during the second quarter. It wasn’t until the Bears took a two-score lead in the fourth quarter did Nagy pull most of his starters. That decision to keep his best and most important players in the game came even as the Los Angeles Rams cruised past the San Francisco 49ers, eliminating any shot the Bears had at earning a first-round bye.
So the Bears, in their first playoff appearance in eight years, will face an Eagles team that’s won three games in a row, including two over division winners in the Los Angeles Rams and Houston Texans. Drawing the defending Super Bowl champions will be a difficult task next weekend — though the status of Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who left Philadelphia’s win over Washington with a chest injury, will be worth monitoring this week.
The Bears didn’t send any signals last week about which team they preferred to face, instead focusing on simply wanting to beat the Vikings and let the playoff picture shake itself out across the NFL Sunday afternoon.
The Bears smothered the Vikings outside of one penalty-aided drive, with the most notable thing Kirk Cousins did was get in a headed argument with wide receiver Adam Thielen toward the end of the first half. Trubisky was efficient and effective, converting four third downs on a pivotal second half 16-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Tarik Cohen touchdown and two-point conversion pass to linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski. Jordan Howard barreled through a stout Minnesota defense for 109 yards on 21 carries, the second time he’s hit that mark in the last four weeks.
It was fair for Bears fans to hope to play the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs, given the Vikings aren’t actually all that good. But that’s also why the Vikings won’t be the Bears’ opponent — they’re just not that good of a team. The Bears looked like the team with something to play for while the Vikings lethargically went through the motions, never looking fit for a spot in the playoffs.
Perhaps the most indicative sign of that feeling: The Vikings, after the Bears took an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, went four-and-out against a Bears defense that pulled Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks from the game for that series. They did the same thing on their next drive.
More importantly: The Bears move on to the playoffs having won nine of their last 10 games. They haven’t lost with Mitch Trubisky as their quarterback since mid-October. This is a defense playing at the top of its game that very well could get safety Eddie Jackson back for the playoffs. They’ve won 12 games, the most this franchise has had since reaching the Super Bowl back in 2006.
There’s a legitimate argument to be made the Bears are the hottest team in the NFC right now.
But if they’re not, that team is the Eagles.