Infusing meaning into meaningless
The Bears and Vikings meet again Sunday in Minneapolis in a game that doesn’t have any big-picture significance for either team. The Bears will be closing out a disappointing 2019 campaign and hoping to finish a third-place season at 8-8. The Vikings, meanwhile, are a wild-card team turning attention to next week’s postseason duties. Still, the game will be played. And here are three keys for the Bears to avoid ending their season on a three-game slide.
Apply the pressure. Don’t let up.
Pregame analysis: The Vikings were a mess up front in Monday night’s 23-10 home loss to the Packers. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked five times and hit seven times. Za’Darius Smith recorded 3½ of those sacks, and the Packers moved him around effectively to get them. Smith beat left tackle Riley Reiff for one sack, right tackle Brian O’Neill for another and rookie center Garrett Bradbury for the other 1½. In other words, there should be weaknesses for Khalil Mack and the Bears pass rushers to expose. Mack had a strip-sack in the Bears’ Week 4 win over the Vikings that led to a gift field goal. Nick Kwiatkoski also had a strip-sack in that victory. The Vikings — potentially playing without running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison again — become especially vulnerable when they lack a running game.
Take care of the football. Pregame analysis: The Vikings are fourth in the NFL with 30 takeaways and had three more in Monday’s loss to the Packers. Safeties Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith have nine of the Vikings’ NFC-best 17 interceptions and are chess pieces that coach Mike Zimmer has used creatively and wisely. For what it’s worth, the Bears are the only opponent that has gotten out of a game against the Vikings without a turnover. Chase Daniel completed 22 of 30 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting and played within himself. Mitch Trubisky would be wise to review that film to gain a clearer view on how to stay steady against an aggressive and opportunistic defense.
Summon some purpose, passion and pride. Pregame analysis: The first game of the Matt Nagy era that had nothing at stake didn’t go well last weekend. The Bears lost by 23 at home to the Chiefs with a performance players and coaches described as sloppy and embarrassing. Nagy emphasized that there’s a difference between lack of effort and lack of focus and that his team suffered far more from the latter than the former. But now what? How will the Bears keep themselves locked in for a Week 17 road game that is little more than a bridge to the offseason? How will they avoid the careless penalties and clunky execution errors that characterized last week’s showing? For a team that prides itself on its resolve, unity and ability to dial in, Sunday will be a major test of concentration.