The Bears finished the 2019 season at 8-8 after rallying to beat the Vikings 21-19 Sunday in Minnesota. Here are three things that stood out in the game:
(1) The Bears defense ended its takeaway drought and also registered its first safety of the season.
After failing to force a turnover in three straight games, the Bears generated three takeaways against a Vikings team that rested most of its starters in preparation for the playoffs, including quarterback Kirk Cousins.
On Minnesota's first two possessions, Bilal Nichols recovered a botched pitch from quarterback Sean Mannion to running back Mike Boone and Kevin Pierre-Louis intercepted a Mannion pass that caromed off Boone. The Bears converted both turnovers into Eddy Piñeiro field goals to take a 6-0 lead.
The defense's third takeaway came on the game's final play as Eddie Jackson picked off Mannion's Hail Mary pass to seal the win.
The Bears improved to 5-1 on the season when they had a positive turnover differential. They were 2-4 when it was negative and 1-2 when it was even. The Bears produced 19 takeaways in 2019 after leading the NFL with 36 in 2018.
When Pierre-Louis returned his first NFL interception two yards to the Vikings' 39, it marked just the second time in 45 possessions over five games that the Bears started a drive in their opponents' territory.
The defense also scored points for the second time this season when Nick Kwiatkoski tackled Boone in the end zone for a safety on a running play from the Vikings' 1. The only other points the defense generated this year came in a Week 3 Monday night win over the Redskins when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown.
(2) The Bears offense produced a late game-winning drive, but the unit again struggled much of the game, especially in the red zone.
The 15-play, 71-yard drive that resulted in Piñeiro's decisive 22-yard field goal was impressive—especially Mitchell Trubisky's 32-yard pass to rookie Riley Ridley on fourth-and-nine. But it came after the Bears offense had failed to score a first-half touchdown for the 11th time in 16 games this year.
Three red-zone possessions in the first half resulted in Piñeiro field goals of 26, 33 and 34 yards after the Bears had reached the Vikings' 8, 9 and 14. The offense opened the second half with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by David Montgomery's 14-yard touchdown run. But settling for the three field goals in the first half almost cost them the game as the Vikings rallied to take a 19-18 lead.
Trubisky completed 26 of 37 passes for 207 yards and an 84.0 passer rating. The third-year pro finished the season connecting on 63.2 percent of his passes for 3,138 yards with 17 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and an 83.0 passer rating. Last year Trubisky completed 66.6 percent of his passes for 3,223 yards with 24 TDs, 12 interceptions and a 95.4 rating.
Fixing the offense will be a top offseason priority for the Bears after the unit finished the season ranked 29th in the NFL in scoring—ahead of only the Bengals, Jets and Redskins—and also 29th in total yards.
(3) Piñeiro provided the answer to a pressing question that lingered for almost a year with a strong finish to the season.
After a highly-publicized search for a new kicker, Piñeiro made 23-of-28 field-goal attempts (82.1 percent) this year, including his final 11 tries over the last six games. Piñeiro was 4-of-4 against the Vikings, hitting from 26, 33 and 34 yards before drilling the 22-yard game-winner with :10 remaining.
"That was a huge, huge, big void that we had going into this year," Nagy said after Sunday's win in Minnesota. "I feel pretty good that that void is filled."
Acquired by the Bears in a trade with the Raiders, Piñeiro opened the season by making 9-of-10 field-goal tries. He then missed 4-of-7 attempts but rebounded to hit 11-of-11 over the final six games.
"It was an amazing feeling," Piñeiro said of his strong finish. "I have been getting good snaps and holds all year long. Also, the guys have done a great job blocking for me. All the credit goes to them.
"I honestly want the season to keep going. It is sad the season is over at this point in time. I am just happy that I ended on a good note. It is now time to get ready for next year where I will need to compete in order to get my job back."