Heading into Sunday night, all of the talk was about how big of a game this was for both the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. Heading into Week 11, the Bears held a half-game lead but had played just two divisional games. It was also said all week that whoever was the better quarterback would win the game and most people’s money was on the $83 million man in Kirk Cousins.
Low and behold, it ended up being the better defense who won the game, and of course that was the Bears’ D. After their 25-20 win took them to 7-3 they now have a game and a half cushion heading into their final six games.
On Sunday night the team’s defense showed why they have near $100 million in cap space allotted to that side of the ball, as they had three turnovers (including a late pick-six), and held a high-powered Vikings’ offense to less than 100-yards of total offense in the first half. Like most games this year, it wasn’t exactly a pretty win for the Bears, but it was the biggest win we’ve seen in well over five years.
Most importantly, this is a team that proved last night that they are truly a playoff contender and here to stay. Now that they are in the driver’s seat to take the NFC North for the first time since 2010, we’ll hand out of game balls in a defensive-heavy award session.
DL Akiem Hicks
To be quite frank, this was the best game I can remember Hicks having in a Bears uniform.
Not only did Hicks rack up a sack and two quarterback hits but five of his six tackles went for loses. Just think about that for a second. The same player who had less than 15 tackles-for-loss last year, had five in one game. The biggest game for this team in the last five-plus years.
Hicks was everywhere on Sunday night and that was usually in the backfield. He was a big reason why the Vikings averaged a measly (1.6) yards-per-carry on the ground off of just 14 carries.
The defense was the highlight on the game but Hicks led all players in terms of stardom. That four-year, $48 million contract looks more and more like a bargain.
OLB Khalil Mack
It was just Mack’s second game back since returning from his ankle injury, and it’s scary (to opposing offenses) to say, but he looks back to 100%. That’s great news for a team that is gearing up for a stretch run that could place them over double digit wins for the first time since 2012.
Sunday night’s performance was yet another staunch reminder why the Bears not only gave up a pair of first rounds picks for him, but why he currently sits as the highest paid defensive player in the history of the NFL.
Mack finished the game with a sack, a forced fumble that he recovered, two quarterback hits with multiple other pressures and a pair of tackles.
Much like Hicks, he was in the back field early and often. He had two pressures on the team’s first defensive drive alone. His night was filled with multiple highlight real moments, including a one-armed stab of left tackle Riley Reiff, that put a 320-pound man straight on his butt.
Welcome to the Mack-era, Bears fans.
Honorable Mentions: S Eddie Jackson and K Cody Parkey
First, we’ll start off with Jackson.
In a game with plenty of excellent defensive performances, Jackson’s pick-six midway through the fourth quarter may have been the biggest play of the year for this (7-3) team.
Just before halftime, Cousins threw his first interception to Adrian Amos but it wasn’t nearly the back-breaker that would occur in the final eight minutes.
Jackson’s pick-six, not only extended the Bears lead to a game-high 16 points, but it was a big statement against their top division foe for the 2018 season. He also finished the game with another key defended pass. After the game, Mack called him a “special player” and even went on to say that he believes Jackson is the best safety in the league. While I’m not sure I agree with that last part, his three interceptions (a pick-six and also a fumble return for a touchdown) have given this team a play maker at the safety position that they have not had in a long time.
Lastly, I’d be doing Parkey a disservice if I didn’t mention his redemption of a game.
The team’s kicker went three of three on his field goal tries for the night, including a huge 48-yarder in the final three minutes of the game that essentially sealed the Bears fate.
After missing four kicks against the Lions a week before and facing plenty of scrutiny throughout the week, his hard work payed off as he went to Soldier Field on two different occasions to kick on his home turf. On his first night, he even had two different local news media choppers that filmed him and hovered overhead.
To downplay his game on Sunday night would not only be a disservice to a good story, but also to a likely playoff team that will need him damn near perfect in order to find any sort of playoff success.