Cairo Santos’ game-winning area objective Monday night time was a gimme, a 30-yard tap-in that completed the Chicago Bears’ 12-10 victory in opposition to the Minnesota Vikings. From the precise hash, with a operating clock, Santos set himself up. Snap, maintain, kick. W.
Nothing to it.
“We all showed character in finishing tonight,” the kicker stated afterward from a jubilant guests locker room at U.S. Bank Stadium.
That kick was the Bears’ of completion, the punctuation of a 66-yard closing drive that had its largest second when Justin Fields drilled a clutch 36-yard completion to DJ Moore on third-and-10 to propel the offense into field-goal vary.
That was the largest play of the night time, each in significance and yards gained. Against zone protection and going through a four-man rush, Fields saved his poise within the pocket. An enormous gap opened in the midst of the sphere.
Moore broke in. Fields threw his fastball.
That play has been talked about most this week — and with good purpose. Finally, in a game-on-the-line second, Fields and the offense completed efficiently, offering the large play within the closing minute with the profitable factors coming from Santos with 10 seconds remaining.
“We know who we are as a team,” Fields stated. “We know what we’re capable of. It’s really just going out there and executing and finishing the way we know how.”
Monday’s victory, as flawed and error-filled because it was, got here loaded with profitable contributions that matter for these Bears, who’re making a tough and now all of the sudden spirited climb again towards the center of the league.
Sure, the Bears had greater than their justifiable share of blunders, missteps that might have brought about a two-week outcry had they misplaced such a winnable recreation in opposition to a middle-tier opponent that was enjoying poorly. The Bears had been flagged 12 instances within the recreation, scored solely three factors off their 4 takeaways, misplaced a Matt Eberflus replay problem late on the Vikings’ go-ahead landing drive late and persevered by way of two essential Fields fumbles within the fourth quarter.
But in addition they displayed admirable resilience and aggressive battle, persevering with to point out progress in key areas that they hope can push them nearer to a extra significant breakthrough.
With a Week 13 open date permitting gamers and coaches extra time to savor their fulfilling end, the Bears can also mirror on their fourth win of the season with pleasure within the flurry of massive performs they made, contributions from the primary quarter by way of the ultimate seconds that made a distinction.
When conferences resume Monday at Halas Hall, Eberflus and his teaching employees may have loads of examples of game-changing moments to focus on. Here are six to get them began.
On the ultimate play of the primary quarter, going through fourth-and-10 from the Vikings 38-yard line, Eberflus rapidly sorted by way of the analytics, thought of the early recreation stream and made a daring determination to go for it.
The Bears had been only a hair exterior Santos’ vary however far sufficient throughout midfield that they didn’t see a large enough reward in punting. Thus the greenlight was given on fourth-and-long.
“You’re just ultra-aggressive there,” Eberflus stated, “because you feel good with how your defense is playing.”
The offense’s response? The Bears used further safety to efficiently deal with a six-man Vikings strain and tight finish Cole Kmet, after initially partaking as a blocker in opposition to D.J. Wonnum, leaked into the open area.
Fields felt the warmth correctly, drifted to his instantly from strain and calmly hit Kmet 5 yards past the road of scrimmage. The tight finish did the remaining, barreling forward for the primary down and prolonging a possession that ended with the primary factors of the night time, a 25-yard Santos area objective.
“The two times we’ve played the Vikings, my responsibilities are I’m either going to be in protection a lot or I’m going to have to get out on my route,” Kmet defined. “Did both there. It was good. You take your pass set and then they add on and I was able to leak out without anybody on me. That was a big play.”
It wasn’t simply the fourth-down conversion that resonated. Two snaps earlier, after a 12-yard sack and a 12-men-in-the-huddle infraction, the Bears had been buried in a second-and-27 gap. But they didn’t let that derail them.
Fields first hit Kmet for a 6-yard achieve, then discovered operating again Roschon Johnson on a checkdown for 11 extra. Then got here the clutch completion to Kmet with the large tight finish including essential yards after the catch.
Kmet, for what it’s price, continues to be one of many steadiest contributors the Bears have and turned in a terrific efficiency Monday throughout the board. As a cross catcher, he’s on tempo for 79 receptions, 683 yards and 7 touchdowns. Among tight ends, he ranks fifth, eighth and second, respectively, throughout these classes by way of Week 12.
‘The Tez factor’
With an urge to enhance the cross rush, Bears normal supervisor Ryan Poles made an all-in transfer for Montez Sweat final month, buying and selling a second-round choose to the Washington Commanders, then securing Sweat’s providers for the lengthy haul with a four-year, $98 million extension. An funding like that brings expectations with the Bears believing Sweat generally is a constant presence for the protection, a playmaker able to making an impression in each half of each recreation.
On Monday, Sweat wanted solely three snaps to make a splash, sacking Vikings quarterback Josh Dobbs for an 8-yard loss on third-and-9. Sweat lined up within Yannick Ngakoue on that play, and the duo ran a stunt to pressure proper deal with Brian O’Neill and guard Ed Ingram. Sweat beat O’Neill across the edge and completed robust.
It was an ideal instance of why the Bears are so excessive on Sweat, believing he generally is a useful chess piece that enables the protection to hunt out favorable matchups — for Sweat and others on the protection.
Sweat shared a second-half sack with security Jaquan Brisker and has been an integral a part of the Bears protection throughout a three-game surge through which they’ve allowed a mean of 18 factors and 264.3 yards per recreation whereas totaling seven sacks and 7 takeaways.
The first of 4 Bears interceptions Monday got here from Jaylon Johnson, who confirmed nice recognition and instincts in zone protection, initially driving on an in route by receiver Brandon Powell earlier than rapidly dropping to react to a nook route from Jordan Addison.
Vikings quarterback Josh Dobbs thought he had Johnson accounted for and tried becoming a cross between Johnson and deep security Eddie Jackson however was picked off.
“I drove initially on the first route,” Johnson stated. “But (Dobbs) pumped. So I put my foot in the ground, got back underneath it and he gave me a chance.”
With that, the takeaway faucet was open for the night time. Brisker, T.J. Edwards and Kyler Gordon added interceptions. And the Bears in all probability ought to have been credited with a fifth takeaway on the sport’s closing play when Josh Blackwell dived on a bouncing soccer throughout a frantic collection of determined Vikings laterals. But formally, that restoration was negated by an unlawful ahead cross on the play by Dobbs.
The Bears protection, which had eight video games with a number of takeaways final season and three by way of the primary 10 weeks this yr, has compelled seven turnovers within the final two video games.
Johnson nearly had himself a second interception Monday, a possible pick-six he dropped within the second quarter.
“Man, I don’t know what’s going on with my hands,” Johnson stated. “I’m not going to lie. I usually have pretty good hands. But I have to figure some things out. … We were in a zone pressure so I had my eyes on the quarterback. And he was really staring his guy down the whole time. I made a good break. But I think I saw a little too much purple in the end zone instead of seeing that ball into my hands. It just got away from me. I have to figure that out.”
On an eventful night time for cornerback Gordon — two penalties, one interception, 4 tackles, one damaged face masks — a fourth-down cease of Vikings tight finish T.J. Hockenson proved pivotal. Facing fourth-and-7 from the their 49 early within the second half, the Vikings selected to go for it. And Dobbs had Hockenson open on an out path to the precise. But Gordon’s response in protection and shutting velocity allowed him to hit Hockenson a beat after he caught the ball. And regardless of a 48-pound drawback in opposition to the Pro Bowl tight finish, Gordon used his power to wrestle Hockenson out of bounds lower than a yard wanting the road to achieve.
It was an enormous cease in a giant second. That turnover on downs gave the Bears optimum area place, they usually took benefit with a field-goal drive that allowed them to regain the lead at 6-3.
Gordon broke his hand within the season opener and missed the following 4 video games. But it has turn out to be clear since his Week 6 return that his presence issues. He has been task sound and aggressive as a tackler and has added to the infectious power of a juiced-up Bears secondary.
Need one other instance of Gordon’s tenacity? Look no additional than the fourth-quarter run stuff he had on Ty Chandler, firing into the “B” hole and completely popping the Vikings operating again for no achieve.
The unsung hero
Don’t look now however Edwards is the NFL’s main tackler with 127, one forward of former Bear Roquan Smith. Edwards added six tackles in opposition to the Vikings, none larger than a third-and-6 cease on a completion to Chandler.
Edwards was in man protection on the play and adopted Chandler because the operating again motioned proper to left within the formation earlier than the snap. Dobbs hit Chandler with a swing cross within the flat, difficult Edwards to make a tough open-field deal with. But Edwards was all around the play, exhibiting textbook tackling type and stopping Chandler for a 3-yard achieve.
On the following snap, the Bears thwarted the Vikings on fourth-and-3 when Johnson broke up a cross supposed for Okay.J. Osborn, and Edwards collected the deflection for an interception.
For good measure, Edwards additionally took Osborn down for a lack of 1 on a 3rd down reception with 2:36 to play, permitting the Bears to get the ball again for his or her game-winning drive.
“Just an outstanding play by him,” Eberflus stated. “He has played well all year. But man, he played well (Monday). He’s making a lot of impactful plays.”
On the primary day of free company final spring, the Bears gave Edwards a three-year, $19.5 million contract with visions of him changing into a difference-making weak-side linebacker. Through 12 video games, that return on funding has been realized.
The final of 11 Fields-to-Moore completions Monday night time drew a lot of the highlight, that aforementioned 36-yarder that put the Bears on the doorstep of their first division win since 2021. But the duo’s first connection on that closing drive was equally notable, with Fields working by way of his progressions, turning down a check-down cross to Roschon Johnson, then extending the play along with his legs.
Outside the pocket and rolling left, Fields puppeteered the Vikings protection, noticed Moore, then labored to create an optimum throwing lane. With Wonnum closing in, Fields made a pointy throw for a 16-yard achieve. That was the Bears’ fifth longest completion of the night time. But in a giant second, it was one other instance of Fields’ rising consolation making performs as a passer whereas on the transfer.
That has been a significant emphasis for the quarterback in his third season as he works to threaten defenses along with his athleticism as a runner and a passer. Since his return from a dislocated proper thumb, Fields has generated a handful of spectacular completions on prolonged performs.
“When you’ve got a quarterback who can run like him, then you can obviously dent the defense pretty good there with those,” Eberflus stated.
On the opening drive, Fields had an analogous strike to Johnson, escaping strain from a Vikings blitz, scrambling out to his left and retaining broad imaginative and prescient of the sphere. Throwing again towards the center of the sphere, Fields ripped a completion for six yards to transform a third-and-2.