In the lead up to Sunday's game in London, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has his eyes on another dominating performance. He made it clear that he hasn't become complacent with a defense that has allowed 45 points in the first four games combined.
"We're only one quarter done with the season," said Pagano. "We love where we're at as a football team. We love where we're at as a defense. But we've got miles and miles to go."
Focusing on the next opponent, the Oakland Raiders, Pagano sees a formidable quarterback in Derek Carr.
Pagano was on the opposite sideline as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts when Carr went down with a broken leg in 2016, derailing a Pro Bowl season with the Raiders boasting a 12-3 record. After taking some time to get back to form, Carr has done an excellent job running Raiders coach Jon Gruden's offense, in Pagano's opinion.
"He's managing the game really well," said Pagano. "He's getting the ball out. He's completing over 70 percent of his passes. He knows where to go with the ball. He's decisive and athletic. He has arm talent, and he can find the guys."
Beyond Carr, Pagano mentioned Raiders tight end Darren Waller, who he calls "a nightmare." Waller has 33 catches for 320 yards this season.
Waller's season has come as a surprise to most, as he was little used in his first three seasons in the league, split between Baltimore and Oakland. The tight end played his college ball at Georgia Tech, which ran a run-heavy triple-option offense, so his receiving skills went unnoticed until he became Carr's favorite target.
"He's a power forward playing tight end," said Pagano, "which is the trend as we know it now. So he's definitely a matchup issue, not only for us but for everybody who has played him. So we're going to have to have all hands on deck to take care of him."
An Act of Wimsy: Apart from Allen Robinson II, the Bears have struggled to find another top target in the passing game. With relatively quiet seasons so far from receiver Anthony Miller and tight end Trey Burton—both players who flashed potential last season before missing time to injuries–offensive coordinator Mark Helrich expects that to change soon.
"I think you do force it a little bit in terms of scheming things up," said Helfrich.“Sometimes that's taken away by whatever reason; maybe it's the defense that they dialed up, maybe it's the protection, myriad issues there."
Helfrich is excited by the 2018 seventh-round pick's potential, telling reporters that Wims’ route-running ability, sometimes cited as an area where Wims need to improve, is up to snuff.
"He's got a different skill set than some of those guys," said Helfrich. "I think it is[important to] be able to plug you in at this spot and do everything that is required of that spot. He did a really good job. He might not break the top off the defense like Taylor Gabriel, but he might double move to get there. So that can work and then just do the dirty work in the other areas."
Trust the process: After improving his rushing totals in Weeks 2 and 3, David Montgomery took a little step back against the Vikings. He was kept without a big run and needed to fight for even short gains. He ended the day with 53 yards on 21 carries.
"We're looking for more explosive plays," said coach Matt Nagy. "We haven't had a lot of those, I don't think. We haven't had a lot of those explosive plays in the run game. Those get you going."
Nagy believes that Montgomery is on the right track and has the correct attitude toward the frustrations of being a rookie.
"There's zero frustration from him," said Nagy, "which could happen sometimes. He understands that we're going through this process and we're gonna get it figured out and he's just very patient. The way he plays the game, the way he attacks it in meetings, nothing's changed from the very first day he got here."
Welcome Back: Sherrick McManis made his return against the Vikings after being inactive for the previous two games. McManis rewarded the Bears by making two open-field tackles on special teams.
"He's a true pro's pro," said special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. "If there was a young player watching Sherrick during those two weeks, and he wasn't up those two weeks, just to watch how he handled that, and he still prepared every day. That's what happens."
McManis has been a walking example of the rewards of persistence. The Northwestern alum is the Bears' longest-tenured player, having cut out a niche for himself making the same types of tackles that he made on Sunday.
"That will be a story for me to tell a young player," said Tabor. "He gets activated. He goes out. He makes--those were splash plays. Those were big-time plays on a really, really good returner, so that's a credit to him."
McManis' performance against the Vikings makes it more likely he will find himself on the active roster throughout the rest of the season.
"I think any time a player plays well, that helps their case," said Tabor. "I think that's why this league is a day-by-day deal. You take nothing for granted. He put good tape out there. I mean, your tape is your resume. Like I say, we'll need him this week. There's no doubt about it."