Named to his second career Pro Bowl hours before Monday night's game at Soldier Field, Robert Quinn celebrated the honor by recording two of the Bears' four sacks in their 17-9 loss to the Vikings.
Quinn increased his season total to a team-leading 16.0 sacks, inching closer to Hall of Famer Richard Dent's Bears record of 17.5 sacks set in 1984. Quinn's 16.0 sacks are the second most in his 11-year NFL career, topped only by the 19.0 he recorded with the Rams in 2013 when he was voted All-Pro and selected to his first Pro Bowl.
"It's good company to be in, I'll put it like that," Quinn said after the Bears fell to 4-10. "It's just tough to celebrate when you're not really doing well [as a team]."
The Bears' other two sacks Monday night were generated by defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who returned to action after missing the last four games with an ankle injury he sustained Nov. 8 in a loss to the Steelers. Hicks, who entered the game with 1.5 sacks this season, more than doubled that total. It was his first contest with at least two sacks since Oct. 9, 2017 when he registered two in a loss to the Vikings.
Minnesota entered Week 15 ranked second in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass attempt. Prior to Monday night, Kirk Cousins had been sacked just 18 times while throwing 477 passes, once per 26.5 attempts.
Stepping up: No one at the start of the season likely would have predicted a Bears starting secondary consisting of Kindle Vildor and Thomas Graham Jr. at cornerback and Deon Bush and Teez Tabor at safety.
But that's the lineup the Bears employed Monday night with all four of their regular starters on the reserve/COVID-19 list: Cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Artie Burns and safeties Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson Sr..
The inexperienced quartet performed well, helping to hold Cousins to 12-of-24 passing for just 87 yards—his fewest yards in 118 career NFL starts. Star receiver Justin Jefferson, who entered Week 15 ranked second in the league with 1,288 yards, caught just four passes for 47 yards.
Graham impressed in his NFL debut, breaking up three passes. The rookie sixth-round pick from Oregon spent the first 14 weeks of the season on the practice squad before being flexed to the active roster Monday, just hours before kickoff.
"A lot of credit to [defensive coordinator] Sean Desai and that defensive coaching staff and the players," said coach Matt Nagy. "Those young kids that came out there coming into this game, you could feel from the beginning they weren't overwhelmed by anything. [Running back] Dalvin Cook and [receiver] Justin Jefferson are two of the better players at their position in the league right now, and Kirk Cousins I have a ton of respect for and I think he's a hell of a quarterback. So for our defense to come out and get the amount of three-and-outs we got (6), man, that's impressive."
Room to improve: The Bears offense struggled on third down and in the red zone. The unit converted just 2-of-12 third-down opportunities (16.7 percent) and mustered only a field goal on its first four possessions inside the 20. The other three drives stalled at the 10 via a lost fumble in the first half and the 9 and 14 on downs in the second half. They also turned the ball over on downs a third time at the Minnesota 21.
Numbers game: Justin Fields completed 26 of 39 passes for 285 yards with one touchdown and a 96.6 passer rating. He also lost a fumble, was sacked three times and rushed for 35 yards on seven carries.
Fields threw for just 121 yards through the first three quarters before passing for 164 yards on three fourth-period possessions while the Vikings were protecting a 14-point lead.
David Montgomery rushed for 60 yards on 18 carries and caught five passes for 23 yards. Cole Kmet led the Bears with six receptions for 71 yards. Darnell Mooney had five catches for 63 yards and Damiere Byrd added five receptions for 62 yards.
Heave-ho: Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks was ejected from the game for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a sliding Fields with 9:30 left in the fourth quarter. The penalty gave the Bears first-and-goal at the 7, but they were unable to score a touchdown on four plays.