Despite missing key starters on both sides of the ball, the Bears recorded their third straight win with a 16-6 victory over the Vikings Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are three things that stood out in the game:
(1) The Bears' next-man-up mindset paid major dividends as several key reserves stepped up when called upon and delivered impressive performances.
After starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky exited with a left-shoulder injury he sustained on the sixth play of the game, Chase Daniel entered the contest and completed 22 of 30 passes for 195 yards with one touchdown and a 101.4 passer rating.
With defensive starters Akiem Hicks (knee), Roquan Smith (personal reasons) and Bilal Nichols (hand) all inactive, multiple backups made the most of their expanded playing time. Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski registered a team-high nine tackles and a strip/sack, defensive tackle Nick Williams generated two sacks and a fumble recovery, and defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris had 1.5 sacks.
"The challenges really come down to the assistant coaches," coach Matt Nagy said Monday. "You have guys that are game-time decisions, the last couple weeks now we've had stuff pop up gameday. So it's, 'How do you respond to that as a coach?' That can easily freak some people out. But our coaches have done a great job with ones that they've known about with injuries or ones that have popped up."
Nagy singled out defensive line coach Jay Rodgers for having his reserves prepared to play. The unit helped the Bears hold NFL leading rusher Dalvin Cook to 35 yards on 14 carries—90 yards below his per game average of 125 entering Week 4.
"We had some guys that really stepped up on that defensive line," Nagy said. "You go back and turn on that tape and you see some guys flying around. I want to give credit to all of the assistant coaches over there, but Jay Rodgers did a really good job with getting his guys ready, and that's what this is all about."
(2) The Bears defense produced another dominant outing, with the aforementioned reserves joining their veteran teammates to shut down the Vikings.
The defense held Minnesota scoreless for the game's first 57 minutes, had six sacks and limited a rushing attack that was averaging 193.7 yards to a meager 40 yards. All-Pro outside linebacker Khalil Mack once again showed his game-breaking ability with a strip/sack on the first play of the second half that turned into a key turnover.
Williams recovered Kirk Cousins' fumble at the Vikings' 16 and Eddy Pineiro followed with his second of three field goals without a miss, a 38-yarder that increased the Bears' lead to 13-0 early in the third quarter. It was the second time the Bears turned a takeaway into a field goal in the game.
The previous occasion occurred midway through the second quarter when cornerback Prince Amukamara punched the ball out of receiver Stefon Diggs' hands after a 10-yard reception and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix scooped up the loose ball.
"I was trying to secure the tackle and punch out the ball at the same time," Amukamara said. "The person who's best at that on our team is Sherrick McManis. I went to the sideline and told him, 'You're not the only one who has that in their toolbox.'"
(3) Daniel, a career backup who has only four starts in 10 NFL seasons, demonstrated poise and play-making ability after replacing Trubisky.
It helps, of course, that Daniel served as a backup with the Chiefs from 2013-15 when Nagy was Kansas City's quarterbacks coach. Daniel's familiarity with the offense was a main reason the Bears signed him last year after Nagy was hired as coach.
"That's the one luxury that we have is having Chase," Nagy said. "He knows the offense really, really well. He's really like a coach out there. He can fix any mistakes that I have, even if it's just communication. He's able to handle that. He did that a couple times [Sunday]."
Replacing Trubisky on the game's opening possession, Daniel capped a 14-play, 75-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Tarik Cohen, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead they would never relinquish. Cohen ran a quick out, caught Daniel's pinpoint pass and then turned up field and raced into the end zone.
"That's one of our staple plays in this entire offense, and that goes back to our Kansas City days," Daniel said. "'Rik is probably one of the best in the league at running that. It was an option route. We got the exact coverage we thought we'd get, and it was a great call. It was timely."
The touchdown was an example of Daniel doing exactly what the playbook called for.
"That's something I told myself: just play within the offense," Daniel said. "Don't try to be Superman out there against a defense like this, just do what you're told to do, and I felt like I saw stuff really well the whole game."