For Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, Monday night's game can be split into two parts: the time when Akiem Hicks was on the field and the time in which he was not.
Hicks recorded four combined tackles, but his presence anchored the defensive line and kept Cook, who entered Week 10 as the NFL's top rusher, in check. At the end of the third quarter, Cook had carried the ball 19 times for only 39 yards.
The majority of Cook's 96 rushing yards came after Hicks left the game late in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. Cook averaged seven yards per carry during the Vikings' drive to take a decisive 19-13 lead.
Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers acknowledged the frustration in playing in a defensive battle without one of his best players.
"At the end of the day, there isn't anything you can do about it at that time," said Rodgers. "You just put the guys in where they need to be in. There isn't anything more that you can do. It's not like I can say, 'Hey, hurry up and get uninjured,' because that doesn't happen. So you plug the guys in."
Rodgers felt that Hicks' fellow lineman did an admirable job filling in in his absence.
"The guys know every spot," said Rodgers, "so I feel very comfortable with the guys we have in the game, and they're gonna execute at a high level, and we play the best players out there."
Hicks has been enjoying a bounce-back year after missing much of 2019 due to injury. Through 10 games, Hicks has recorded 39 combined tackles, seven tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks. He has anchored a defensive line that held its own against Cook and Titans running back Derrick Henry in consecutive weeks.
"I thought there were a lot of really good moments in that game," said Rodgers, "bottling [Cook] up and not letting him get out. I think there were two runs in the entire game that had significant yardage, and one of them was on a third-and-20. So there was one run where I think he got significant yardage that I'd like to have back. But all in all, this guy is a dynamic player, and I think, for the most part, we kept him from not wrecking the game."
Hicks' status for the Bears' next game against the Green Bay Packers is not yet known. However, the defensive tackle has shown a determination to play in important games against divisional opponents in the past. Last season, Hicks came off injured reserve to face the Packers in Week 13.
Hicks recorded four tackles and hit quarterback Aaron Rodgers twice.
Rodgers believes the bye week will be a good opportunity for the defensive line to adjust.
"I think what you try to do every week is put the best players on the field at the times where they're most productive," said Rodgers. "And I think over the course of 10 weeks, we've tried to do that as much as we possibly can. We've had a couple of injury situations where guys have had to play different roles, and when you look at those roles that they're playing, I feel like they're playing those roles at a high level. So the versatility that we've built along the front has been good."