CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears are piling up losses, looking more like a team fading from contention in the NFC North than one poised to make a run at the division.
Despite the recent defeats, they insist they are not a beaten team.
The Bears get a chance to prove it in primetime and stop a three-game losing streak when they host the resurgent Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
Chicago (5-4) has won four straight over the Vikings (3-5) and is 4-0 against them since coach Matt Nagy took over in 2018. The Bears have been particularly dominant at Soldier Field, winning 14 of 17 against Minnesota since the stadium reopened in 2003 following renovations.
But they are hardly looking good at the moment. They really haven't been since they kicked off the season.
Even when they were 5-1, the Bears weren't exactly stirring visions of a Super Bowl championship. Their offense has ranked among the worst in the NFL all year. And that hasn't changed much since quarterback Nick Foles replaced Mitchell Trubisky in a Week 3 win at Atlanta.
"Why would we pack it in?" receiver Allen Robinson said. "We're sitting second in our division, seven games left. There's no need to panic and pack it in at all. At the end of the day, we know the kind of players that we have on this offense."
The past three games have been particularly tough for Chicago.
The Bears got dominated in a Monday night loss to the Rams in Los Angeles, then lost in overtime to New Orleans at Soldier Field. At Tennessee last week, the Bears didn't score until the fourth quarter, and two late touchdowns made a 24-17 loss look closer than it really was.
The Vikings, meanwhile, got tripped up in a 1-5 start that included one-point losses to Tennessee and Seattle. But wins over Green Bay and Detroit following a bye have them in contention.
They can thank Dalvin Cook. The NFL's rushing leader has 478 yards and six TDs from scrimmage over the past two weeks.
"Part of it is sticking to it and believing you can get some wins," coach Mike Zimmer said. "I talked to them, I guess a few weeks ago: 'Just believe.' You've got to believe that you're going to pull these games out, the ones we didn't win early."
TIME TO GET GOING
Cook has just 86 yards on 34 carries in three career games against the Bears. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, since joining the Vikings in 2018, is 0-3 with just three touchdown passes, two interceptions and one lost fumble against the Bears with an average of 5.5 yards per attempt. The onus will be on Cousins and Cook along with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and an improving offensive line to buck this recent trend of struggles against the sturdy Chicago defense.
"They're definitely a good team. It's not something we can walk into and say, 'Hey, this is going to be something that's easy.' We definitely give them a lot of respect, and we're going to have to make sure we game plan really well and get ready to go to work and try to get a win," left guard Dakota Dozier said.
NFC NORTH RUN
While the Vikings are wrapping up a three-game stretch against the NFC North, the Bears are beginning one. They have a bye next week, then visit Green Bay before hosting Detroit.
Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson has thrived in place of four-time Pro Bowl pick Anthony Barr, who's out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. His promotion from a limited role to full-time player has yielded three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
"I don't know that anyone's playing at a higher level than Eric Wilson right now. That man's a walking turnover," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "I feel like he's coming into his own, definitely. He's already in his own."
The Vikings have used seven different rookies on defense. None of the cornerbacks available this week has played in more than the 21 games of NFL experience that Kris Boyd has. But there's been gradual improvement lately. The Vikings held Green Bay to 22 points and Detroit to 20 points in the past two games, their two lowest totals allowed of the season.
"I said this to some of the defensive coaches today, 'We might be doing our best job coaching we've done, and we're still giving up 400 yards a game,'" Zimmer said. "It's a work in progress, but I think some of these guys are getting better."
Nagy announced Friday he is handing play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, at least for this game. It's not clear if the change is for one week or a permanent switch.