What We Learned From The Chicago Bears’ Overtime Loss To The Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings came out on top over the Chicago Bears in what became one of the most bizarre games of the season. It was an ugly game for both teams, as neither teams’ offense nor defense looked very good at all. It was a struggle for both teams, and each team had a chance to win. It was the Vikings who got the last laugh. In a game as close as this, there is a lot that both teams can look back on and learn from to better themselves for the rest of the season. Here’s what we learned from the Vikings’ win over the Bears.
Craig Steltz should have been starting weeks ago
After pulling a hamstring in practice this past week, Major Wright was ruled out of this game, giving Craig Steltz the start. From the start, his impact was felt. He made multiple solid open-field tackles, and his decision making, for the most part, was a nice change of pace from Wright. Steltz led the team in tackles too. Wright has really struggled this season, and Steltz should have been in the starting lineup a long time ago. The difficult question becomes who deserves to be benched more, Wright or Chris Conte? When Wright is healthy once again, the Bears will have a difficult decision to make. Conte really played poorly in this game, but the Bears could still opt to role with both of their young safeties. It is definitely a situation worth monitoring.
Josh McCown’s limitations shine through when the pass protection is lacking
Josh McCown had a great game today, but early in the game he had some issues throwing the ball. There were off-target short throws and under-thrown long passes. He looked much more like the McCown from years past. However, in the second half, he found his groove once again, hitting Alshon Jeffery on a couple of gorgeous deep balls. Then, in the fourth quarter, he made another questionable decision, flipping the ball while being dragged to ground. Offensive guard Kyle Long would catch it after it was tipped, but he would soon fumble, and the Vikings would recover. It was a terrible play by McCown, but it was not game-changing. The statistics do not show the whole story, as his numbers looked great while he played poorly overall. What appeared to be the difference between his good plays and his bad ones was the offensive line. When they were allowing pressure, his throws were off and his decision-making was poor. When they were solid, he was balling.
The interior defensive line is so important to the Bears’ defense
The return and debut of Stephen Paea and Jeremiah Ratliff, respectively, made a huge impact overall on the Bears’ defense. It is a domino effect. Their return made the interior pass rush better, which diverted offensive line focus away from Julius Peppers. Peppers, then, was able to have a much easier time getting the quarterback, registering 2.5 sacks with multiple pass deflections. That overall increase in pass rush forced Christian Ponder and eventually Matt Cassel to get rid of the ball quicker and off balance more frequently, making it easier on the secondary. As those two defensive tackles get fully healthy, their presence will continue to make a bigger and bigger impact.
Alshon Jeffery may just turn out to be the best wide receiver in Bears history
After setting the Bears’ all-time single-game receiving record week five, Alshon Jeffery went off once again, breaking his own record. He finished with 12 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns. He was unstoppable, and he is really establishing himself as a top receiver in the league. His two touchdowns were both over 45 yards, and the second was a spectacular, highlight-reel catch. In only his second season in the league, Jeffery is near the top five in the league in receiving yards and yards per reception. He is only 23 years old, and he still has many years of dominance ahead of him.
The Vikings found their starting quarterback for the rest of the season
In the second quarter, Christian Ponder suffered a concussion that would keep him out of the rest of the game. Matt Cassel came in and played decently at first, before really turning it up in the fourth quarter. He finished with 20 of 33 with 243 yards and a touchdown and interception, but in the fourth quarter he was really was balling. He led the Vikings down the field beautifully, setting up a game-tying field goal that send it to overtime. In overtime too, the Vikings were able to move the ball effectively, setting up two game-winning field goal opportunities. The Vikings would be smart to stick with Cassel.