Another strong performance by the offense and a pair of crucial late stops by the defense lifted the Bears to a thrilling 33-27 win over the Vikings Sunday in Minnesota.
After opening the game with a three-and-out, the resurgent Bears offense scored on seven of eight drives the rest of the game, not counting a kneel-down at the end of the first half.
David Montgomery enjoyed his best day as a pro, rushing for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. Mitchell Trubisky threw for 202 yards with one TD, one interception and a 97.7 passer rating while also rushing for 34 yards on eight attempts.
"I thought Mitchell did a great job of commanding the offense and making smart decisions," said coach Matt Nagy. "David ran his tail off, the offensive line blocked, the tight ends, the wide receivers made big catches, and a credit to our coaching staff. So I loved the way that that went."
Cairo Santos stayed red hot, making field goals of 42, 35, 48 and 42 yards without a miss. He has now hit 22 straight field goals, with his last miss coming in a Week 3 win in Atlanta.
Thinned out by injuries in the secondary, the Bears defense allowed the Vikings to score on four straight possessions from late in the second quarter to midway through the fourth period. But the defense stiffened with the game on the line in the final minutes.
First, Brent Urban pressured Kirk Cousins into a fourth-and-1 incompletion from the Vikings' 29 with 1:54 left in the game, turning the ball over on downs.
And then after Santos' 42-yard field goal increased the Bears' lead to 33-27, the Vikings advanced to the Chicago 33 with :07 to play. Needing a touchdown to win, Cousins heaved a Hail Mary pass into the end zone. Eddie Jackson batted the ball away from receiver Justin Jefferson and Sherrick McManis intercepted it as time expired, preserving the victory.
The Bears played the game without injured cornerback Jaylon Johnson (shoulder), nickel back Buster Skrine (concussion) and safety Deon Bush (foot).
"As far as defense, I thought that they made some big-time stops at crucial situations in this game where if they don't make those, it could be a different outcome," Nagy said. "They're fighters, and they care a lot."
With their second straight win, the Bears (7-7) took a one-game lead over the Vikings (6-8) and remained one game behind the Cardinals (8-6) for the third and final NFC wild card berth following Arizona's 33-26 victory over the Eagles Sunday afternoon.
The awakening of the offense continued to be the most significant storyline in Minnesota. In four games since Trubisky regained his starting job, Montgomery returned from a concussion and the offensive line was reconfigured, the Bears have scored 14 touchdowns and averaged 31.0 points and 386.5 yards per contest. In the previous seven games, they mustered nine TDs and averaged 16.7 points and 272.1 yards.
The Bears have scored at least 25 points in those four games (25, 30, 36, 33) after failing to do so in the previous seven contests (11, 20, 23, 10, 23, 17, 13). In addition, they've produced at least 30 points in each of their last three games after doing so three times in their prior 35 contests dating back to the middle of the 2018 season.
Although the Bears defense yielded 27 points and 407 yards Sunday, the unit not only made the two late stops but also forced the Vikings to settle for two short field goals after Minnesota had reached Chicago's 6- and 4-yard lines.
Cousins completed 24 of 45 passes for 271 yards with two TDs, one interception and a 98.6 rating. Jefferson had eight receptions for 104 yards. And Dalvin Cook rushed for 132 yards and one TD on 24 carries.
The Bears surged to a 20-10 halftime lead, scoring at least 20 points in the first half for the third straight game for the first time since 1967 and the first time in Minnesota since 1968. In the first half, Trubisky passed for 109 yards with one TD and a 117.9 rating, while Montgomery rushed for 68 yards and one TD on 13 carries.
The Bears took a 7-0 lead on Trubisky's 8-yard TD pass to Darnell Mooney with 9:01 left in the first quarter. Trubisky rolled to his left and calmly lofted the ball over blitzing linebacker Eric Wilson. The TD came one play after Trubisky's perfect pass down the right sideline to Allen Robinson II resulted in a 24-yard gain on third-and-3.
The Vikings answered as Cousins hit receiver Adam Thielen for a 3-yard TD pass on third-and-goal, tying the score 7-7.
The Bears then scored the next 13 points. After a Santos field goal made it 10-7, Robert Quinn ended his sack drought with a third-down strip/sack of Cousins. Left tackle Riley Reiff recovered the fumble, but the Vikings were forced top punt. It was Quinn's first sack since his first play in a Bears uniform in a Week 2 win over the Giants.
The Bears followed with an impressive 13-play, 76-yard drive that was capped by Montgomery's 1-yard TD run, extending their lead to 17-7 with 6:46 to play in the first half.
The defense then came up big again. Duke Shelley, who replaced Skrine at nickel back for the second straight game, stopped Cousins inches short on a third-down run, resulting in fourth-and-1 from the Minnesota 34. The Vikings kept their offense on the field and handed off to Cook, who was stuffed by John Jenkins and Bilal Nichols for no gain.
The Bears took advantage of the excellent field position, ultimately increasing their lead to 20-7 on Santos' 35-yard field goal.
The Vikings then climbed to within 20-17 without the Bears offense touching the ball, on Dan Bailey's 24-yard field goal with :26 left in the half and Cook's 1-yard TD run on the opening drive of the second half.
The Bears responded, however, as Montgomery powered into the end zone for a 14-yard TD run that widened the margin to 27-17.
"That 14-yard touchdown run was awesome, because he runs so hard," Nagy said. "He's really, really hard to bring down with one guy. He runs with just extreme passion. The guys love that; we're feeding off of him."
The Vikings answered quickly, marching 69 yards to the Bears' 6 on just three plays. But the defense held in the red zone again, forcing Minnesota to settle for Bailey's 22-yard field goal, closing the gap to 27-20.
The Bears widened the margin to 30-20 on Santos' 48-yard field goal, but the Vikings cut the deficit to 30-27 on Cousins' 20-yard TD pass to tight end Tyler Conklin with 8:05 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Bears followed by adding a field goal and stopping the Vikings twice, splitting the season series with Minnesota and keeping their playoff hopes alive heading into the final two games of the season.
See the game unfold through the lenses of our sideline photographers as the Bears face off in a divisional matchup against the Vikings in Minnesota.