1. Misdirection Chiefs dressed like Bears
If the 7-3 Bears keep this up, first-year coach Matt Nagy will win NFL Coach of the Year. Sorry, Sean Payton, Andy Reid and Sean McVay. Watching the Bears in the first half of Sunday’s 25-20 victory at Soldier Field was — at times when they weren’t committing silly turnovers — like watching Nagy’s former team, the Chiefs, dressed in Bears uniforms. An amazing transformation from the lifeless John Fox years, the Bears offense stretched the field side-to-side and used excellent misdirection to keep the Vikings defense one step behind. The Bears had 202 yards at halftime and had six different ball carriers run 23 times for 115 yards. In a town where offenses have struggled for years, Nagy’s new-look team came into Sunday night’s game riding a six-game stretch of scoring the Bears hadn’t seen in 62 years. The 206 points scored in that stretch were the most since the team scored 237 in 1956.
2. Bears are bullish in protecting the red zone
The Bears defense went into Sunday night’s game having allowed a league-low 19 drives into the red zone. The Vikings got there on their second possession, reaching the 15-yard line before the Bears flexed another league-leading strength: turnover ratio. Khalil Mack’s fifth forced fumble and second fumble recovery stopped a Dalvin Cook run and snuffed out the Vikings’ only productive drive of a five-possession first half that saw them go three-and-out three times and turn the ball over twice. The Bears also went into Sunday night having allowed only two 100-yard rushers in the past 27 games. Frank Gore ran for 101 in Week 6 this season. The Vikings’ Latavius Murray had 111 in Week 17 of last season. The Vikings never got their running game going. They had 20 yards on nine first-half carries while possessing the ball for only 10:05.
3. Callahan raising his game, too
The guy covering Adam Thielen for parts of Sunday night’s game has a pretty good rags-to-riches tale himself. No, Bryce Callahan didn’t play Division II football, à la Thielen. But the Bears’ slot corner was unwanted in the 2015 NFL draft. He came out of Rice, turned some heads and now, in a contract year, is making a strong case to get paid some big bucks. “He’s a great player,” Thielen said during the week. “He’s a quick guy. He’s going to be all over you pretty much every play.” Callahan has two interceptions and two sacks, making him only the fourth corner in Bears history with multiple sacks in a season. In the first half Sunday night, he helped hold Thielen to two catches for 18 yards. But in the third quarter, Thielen beat Callahan for a 5-yard catch on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 22.
4. Bailey’s foot kept Vikings in the game
For the first time since 2016, the Bears didn’t catch the Vikings napping on special teams. And Vikings kicker Dan Bailey also kept the Vikings in the game into the fourth quarter by making a pair of 36-yard field goals in the second half. Meanwhile, one of the loudest cheers in the history of successful 33-yard field goals was given to Bears kicker Cody Parkey, who made all three of his attempts a week after clanging four balls off the Soldier Field uprights. But he also sent a kickoff out of bounds. Nagy went for two and was successful after both touchdowns. In last year’s two meetings, Bears punter Pat O’Donnell threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Benny Cunningham, while Callahan scored on a 59-yard punt return off a trick play in which Tarik Cohen also lined up deep and fooled the Vikings by pretending to field the punt.
5. Was Wilson’s penalty warranted?
Playing in place of Anthony Barr for the third consecutive game, Eric Wilson is proving to be a decent backup/spot starter at linebacker. He showed his speed and quickness while making a nice stop in the second quarter. But what should have been second-and-10 from the Vikings 40-yard line turned into first-and-10 at the Vikings 25 because of an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on Wilson. After tackling receiver Taylor Gabriel for no gain near the Bears sideline, Wilson ripped Gabriel’s towel from his waist. The towel appeared to stick to the tape on his wrist. When he flung his arm toward the Bears sideline, the towel came loose, causing the official to throw the flag. Wilson also could have said something to cause the flag. It was a questionable call, but either way, frustrated or not, Wilson could have just avoided grabbing the towel.