Whether it was a pick six or a key field goal, the Bears delivered virtually every time a clutch play was needed in Sunday night's first-place clash with the Vikings.
The result was a 25-20 win before a raucous Soldier Field crowd that enabled the Bears (7-3) to extend their division lead over Minnesota (5-4-1) to a game-and-a-half.
"These opportunities don't come around a whole lot," said coach Matt Nagy. "So the challenge to us was being a young team and a new team together, how are we going to respond to this? It's a test. It's not easy. I think being able to play four quarters of good football against that team to get the win shows that we're headed in the right direction."
The Bears defense repeatedly rose to the occasion, generating three takeaways including an interception that Eddie Jackson returned 27 yards for a touchdown. The score came after the Vikings had closed the gap to 14-6 early in the fourth quarter.
"We were fighting and clawing a little bit on offense," Nagy said. "Then for [Jackson] to make that play and score the touchdown, it broke it open a little bit, so that was huge."
The Bears defense dominated in the first half, producing two takeaways and forcing three three-and-outs on Minnesota's five possessions.
The defense stepped up again in the second half, forcing the Vikings to settle for a pair of Dan Bailey 36-yard field goals after Minnesota had started drives at the Bears' 31 and 29 following a Mitchell Trubisky interception and Tarik Cohen fumble.
After hitting the goalpost on all four of his missed kicks last Sunday, Cody Parkey rebounded to make all three of his field-goal attempts against the Vikings, including a 48-yarder that gave the Bears a two-score lead at 25-14 with 2:48 left in the game.
"It's just amazing how things go in life amd how things work," Nagy said. "For that to happen, what happened last week, and then for Cody to come back this week and be 3-for-3 in field goals, it's just a testament to him, who he is as a person. And then to see our team rally behind him, that's a special moment there that we'll all remember."
The Bears led 14-3 after three quarters before the teams combined for 28 points in the final period. After Jackson's pick-six made it 22-6, the Vikings closed the gap to 22-14 as Kirk Cousins threw a 13-yard TD pass to Aldrick Robinson and a two-point conversion pass to Adam Thielen with 4:51 to play.
After Parkey's third field goal without a miss widened the margin to 25-14, the Vikings cut the deficit to 25-20 on Cousin's 5-yard TD pass to Stefon Diggs with :48 remaining.
Benny Cunningham recovered the ensuing onside kick, enabling the Bears to record their fourth straight win for the first time since they won six in a row in 2012.
"It shows that we can battle with the best of them," Cohen said. "It shows that we are still getting better and that we haven't reached our ceiling yet. Only we can decide what our ceiling is."
Khalil Mack continued his remarkable season, forcing and recovering a Dalvin Cook fumble in the first half and recording his team-leading eighth sack of the season in the second half. Akiem Hicks also had a stellar game, registering six tackles, one sack, five tackles-for-loss and two quarterback hits.
"Our defense is dominant, and we've known that since OTAs," Hicks said. "It's just a matter of going out there on Sunday and putting it on the field. Whatever it took to get us to this point, we have it now, and we've just got to go out every Sunday and put it back on the field."
Trubisky completed 20 of 31 passes for 165 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 61.9 passer rating. He also rushed for 43 yards on 10 carries. Jordan Howard gained 63 yards on 18 carries. Gabriel caught seven passes for 52 yards.
"This defense that we just faced is one of the best defenses in the NFL," Nagy said. "They're really good at what they do. It was an extreme challenge for us. So for our guys to come out here and have success against this great defense, I'm proud of them. We did enough on our side on offense to get the win."