1. Daniel channels inner … Chad Hutchinson!
Chase Daniel is 32 years old. He’s been in the league nine seasons with four teams. Before Sunday, this late-season mop-up man had never thrown a regular-season pass before Week 8. And yet, there he was taking over for injured Bears starter Mitch Trubisky on the seventh snap of the Bears’ 16-6 win over the Vikings at Soldier Field. All he did was complete 22 of 30 passes with a touchdown, no turnovers and a 101.4 passer rating. “It felt like just a practice, to be honest,” Daniel said. “Like I was running the scout team.” It hearkened memories of 2004 at Soldier Field when Chad Hutchinson, playing in his first game in two years, completed 18 passes with three touchdowns and a 115.0 passer rating in a win over the Vikings. Hutchinson retired that year with a record of 3-11. Daniel’s career record: 3-2.
2. They pay Cousins to make that throw
Yes, Kirk Cousins was pressured repeatedly by the Bears. Yes, he’s faced a lot of pressure all season. But it’s not like he hasn’t had his share of clean pockets with which to make the kind of throws the Vikings are paying him $84 million to occasionally make when Dalvin Cook can’t carry the offense. One such failure came on the Vikings’ first possession. After converting two third downs with short passes to Cook and Irv Smith Jr., Cousins faced third-and-10. With a clean pocket, he had Adam Thielen open deep. Thielen wasn’t wide open. He had maybe a step on the defender. It would have required an excellent throw to drop it over the defender. The kind of throw Cousins pinpointed to Stefon Diggs at Green Bay. The ball was overthrown by 2 or 3 yards. The Vikings punted got just one more possession in the half.
3. Mack threw full arsenal at Reiff
It was a tough day for Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff. Then again, a lot of tackles have rough days against Khalil Mack. Reiff gave up 1½ sacks to Mack. He also false-started once and actually was called for holding on the half-sack he gave up. The wide array of Mack’s moves was on full display the two times he dropped Cousins. The first sack came on the first snap of the third quarter. Mack is huge linebacker at 6-3, 269. But after baiting Reiff into leaning inside he got ridiculously low while racing in a blink around the corner and underneath Reiff’s outstretched arms to strip Cousins for a Bears takeaway. Two possessions later, Mack’s half-sack came on a polar-opposite move. He got Reiff leaning outside and used his left hand to deliver a blow to Reiff’s inside shoulder. Reiff resorted to a mugging, but still couldn’t stop Mack.
4. No Bears penalties last 38 minutes
The Bears were flagged seven times for 50 yards in the game’s first 22 minutes. On the Vikings’ second of two first-half possessions, the Bears defense was flagged four times. There was a neutral zone infraction, an unnecessary-roughness penalty by Eddie Jackson on a third-and-16 stop at the Vikings 11-yard line. Mack was called for holding. And there was another flag for illegal use of hands. And yet the Vikings’ drive ended with Diggs fumbling the ball away. When the Bears committed their seventh penalty, the Vikings had two of them for 10 yards. But after the Bears’ seventh penalty, they went the rest of the game — 38 minutes — without committing another one. The Vikings also had seven penalties for 68 yards. “I think we lead the league in penalties,” said nose tackle Linval Joseph. Not quite. They went into the game tied for eighth.
5. Bears punt team gets a game ball
Both punt teams were on their games with five punts apiece. Chicago’s Pat O’Donnell had a 48.2-yard average with a 45.8 net. The Vikings’ Britton Colquitt averaged 47.0 with a 43.8 net. O’Donnell’s big leg and his gunners kept Marcus Sherels contained (3.0 average on four returns) in his first game back with the team. It also didn’t help that Joseph was called for holding on Chicago’s first punt. That moved the ball from the Vikings 18 to their 5. In the third quarter, O’Donnell punted only 40 yards, but Sherels was dropped for a 1-yard loss by former Viking Cordarrelle Patterson, who reminded us again just how good a punt gunner he is. In the fourth quarter, with the Bears up 16-0, O’Donnell uncorked a 64-yard punt. Sherels was dropped after only a 4-yard gain for a net 60-yarder. Later, O’Donnell had a 48-yarder to the 8-yard line with no return.