The Chicago Bears will face the division rival Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Soldier Field on Sunday. Despite some key injuries, the Bears hope to build on their performance from last week’s dominant 31-15 win over the Washington Redskins.
Against the Redskins, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw his first touchdown pass of the season when he connected with wide receiver Taylor Gabriel for a 3-yard touchdown. Gabriel went on to catch two more touchdowns (all in the same quarter), including a 36-yard catch initially ruled as incomplete. The ruling was reversed on replay after Bears head coach Matt Nagy challenged the call.
Gabriel didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday after sustaining a concussion in the third quarter against the Redskins. He remains in the concussion protocol.
The Bears’ offense will face a tough challenge against a Vikings defense that is tied for fifth in the league in points allowed per game (15.7). The Bears’ offensive line at times has not been able to protect their quarterback – Trubisky has been sacked eight times this season. Four Vikings defenders have at least two sacks on the season: Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen and Eric Wilson.
Rookie running back David Montgomery could help take the pressure off Trubisky and the offensive line. Against the Redskins, Montgomery carried the ball 13 times for 67 yards.
The Bears’ offense may have to carry most of the scoring duties considering kicker Eddy Pineiro did not participate in practice Wednesday or Thursday. Pineiro sustained an injury to his right knee (his kicking leg) in the weight room last week. However, he did play last Sunday against the Redskins and made all of his kicks except a 44-yarder.
“You have to have a contingency plan for all that, that’s my job,” Nagy said when addressing reporters Thursday. Despite preparing for a plan B, Nagy’s not too concerned about his kicker’s readiness. “The last thing I’m gonna do with any of these guys is panic in any way,” he said. (Watch the full press conference here.)
The Bears’ defense will face a big challenge of their own. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has four touchdowns and leads the league in rushing yards with 375. The Bears have allowed only one 100-yard rusher in regulation over the past 37 regular-season games.
The Bears’ defense will have to find a way to stop Cook without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks who didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday with a knee injury.
In addition to Cook, the defense will also have to slow down wide receiver Adam Thielen who had two touchdowns last week against the Oakland Raiders.
The Bears team will look a bit different when they take the field on Sunday. They will be wearing a new (well, old) uniform, a recreation of what the Bears wore for one season in 1936. The Bears organization says at the time these jerseys were worn, the NFL was not yet integrated so the players wearing the jerseys this Sunday will be the first African Americans to do so. The Bears will also wear the jersey against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, Dec. 5 at Soldier Field.
Former Bears offensive lineman and WTTW News football analyst James “Big Cat” Williams gives us three key takes on what the Bears need to do to beat the Vikings in week four.
Big Cat Take #1: Run Stuffers
The Bears are going to have to slow down Vikings running back Cook. Cook is the key to the Vikings offense. The running game allows the Vikings to get into their play action and screen game. The Bears go into this matchup 5th versus the run and the Vikings are 2nd running the ball.
Big Cat Take #2: Ready, Get Set, Go
Offensively, the Bears are going to need to give us more of what we saw versus the Redskins. Getting the offense to the line of scrimmage, allowing Nagy to look over the defense and talk to Trubisky until there are 15 seconds left on the play clock really seemed to help Trubisky be more comfortable at the start of the play.
Also a heavy dose of Montgomery running the ball.
Big Cat Take #3: Tip-Top Shape
A healthy Pineiro. Apparently the Bears kicker injured his knee while weight lifting but that did not stop him from kicking against Washington where he went 4 for 4 kicking extra points and also made a 38-yard field goal before missing a 44-yarder.
Against this Vikings defense the Bears might need his leg.
Big Cat Bold Prediction:
Video: Bears head coach Matt Nagy speaks to the media ahead of Sunday’s game against the Vikings.