The Bears passed their biggest test of the season with flying colors Sunday night at Soldier Field, beating the Vikings 25-20 in a battle for first place in the NFC North. Here are three things that stood out in the game:
(1) A dominant Bears defense that continues to ascend on a weekly basis delivered another impressive performance against the Vikings.
The Bears shut out their opponent in the first half for the third time this season, forcing two turnovers and three three-and-outs on five Minnesota possessions. But the unit may have been at its best in the second half when the Vikings started drives at the Chicago 31 and 29 after registering two takeaways of their own. In both cases, the Bears forced Minnesota to settle for Dan Bailey 36-yard field goals, yielding just 24 yards on 13 plays. The kicks came after sacks by Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks.
Eddie Jackson later produced the most important play of the game when he intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown, enabling the Bears to increase their lead to 22-6 with 8:30 left in the fourth quarter. It was the third takeaway of the game for the Bears, who have forced at least three turnovers in seven of their last eight contests and haven't had a negative turnover differential in any game this season.
Fueled by their defense, the Bears lead the NFL with a plus-13 turnover ratio, 27 takeaways, 18 interceptions, 97 points off takeaways and 77.8 rushing yards allowed per game, and they're tied for tops in the league with 15 forced fumbles.
(2) Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears offense did just enough to win against one of the NFL's best defenses.
It wasn't easy at times, but the Bears produced one touchdown and three field goals on 11 possessions and were successful on both of their two-point conversions. Trubisky completed 20 of 31 passes for 165 yards with one TD, two interceptions and a 61.9 passer rating. He also rushed for 43 yards on 10 carries and now leads all NFL quarterbacks with 363 yards on the ground.
Coach Matt Nagy was impressed with how Trubisky stayed "completely composed throughout that entire game [against a] challenging defense that presented a lot of different parts to the game, that gave him different looks." "They're good at what they do," Nagy said. "Not every play was perfect by myself and by the players. He never got rattled, not at all. He continued to stay very composed, next-play mentality, nothing changed, never got too high, never got too low."
The Vikings entered the game leading the NFL in third-down defense at 25.7 percent. But the Bears converted 6-of-12 opportunities (50 percent) and allowed only one sack to a defense that had set a franchise record with 10 sacks in its previous game. "The offensive line, from what I saw last night, was really solid," Nagy said. "There was one particular protection, one missed assignment or one-on-one that we lost early in the game and had a sack, but other than that it was solid across the board."
(3) Cody Parkey demonstrated tremendous intestinal fortitude, and his teammates were excited to see him bounce back after missing four kicks the previous week.
You could feel the nervous anticipation in the Soldier Field crowd when Parkey jogged onto the field for his first field-goal attempt Sunday night—and you could certainly hear the thunderous cheers that followed when his 33-yarder split the uprights. Parkey made all three of his field goal attempts against the Vikings, capped by a clutch 48-yarder that gave the Bears a two-score lead at 25-14 with 2:48 left in the game.
For Parkey, it was an impressive rebound performance after all four of his missed kicks—two field goals and two extra points—hit the upright last Sunday against the Lions. The kicker's teammates mobbed him after his field goals versus the Vikings.
"You see how we celebrated Cody," said cornerback Prince Amukamara. "We knew that he had a tough time last week and was very hard on himself. For him to hit the first one and hit the last one, we knew how huge that was and he crushed it. He ended up breaking us down at the end right here, and that goes with what I've been saying all year: We have genuine love for each other and guys celebrate other's success."
Prime Photos: Bears vs. Vikings 11.18.18
Bears photographer Jacob Funk selected his best photos from the Bears game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field.