Chicago Bears Injured but Still Dominant in Week 5

The Chicago Bears were injured but still dominant in Week 4. They head to London a little more so, but with a well-earned victory to show for it. Two starting defensive linemen, a starting inside linebacker,  a guard, and a starting wide receiver. These are the players came into their game against the Minnesota Vikings missing.

They would lose quarterback Mitchell Trubisky only a few plays into the game. A game they would lead in its entirety. That’s because, across the board, guys stepped up and showed out against a now 2-2 Vikings squad that is reeling following two consecutive losses.

Bears Injured, Still Dominate Vikings

The Good

Injuries to Bilal Nichols and Akiem Hicks led to Roy Robertson-Harris and Nick Williams on the defensive line. A personal matter claimed Roquan Smith giving way to Nick Kwiatkoski at linebacker. They helped hold the league’s leading rusher in Dalvin Cook to 35 rushing yards on 14 carries. He added another 35 via six catches but much of that came on screens late.

The Bears held the Vikings to 222 total yards as Kirk Cousins struggled his way to 233 passing yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He did, however, absorb six sacks and fumbled twice. Chicago got consistent pressure on Cousins all game as Williams (2), Robertson-Harris (1.5), and Kwiatkowski (1) joined Khalil Mack (1.5) in getting him down.

On offense, it was Kyle Long and Taylor Gabriel sitting with injuries and Ted Larsen and Javon Wims filling their respective roles. Larsen would, himself, get hurt during the game. Still, the line protected Chase Daniel, who came in after Trubisky injured his shoulder. Daniel threw 30 times, completing 22, for 195 yards and a touchdown. He looked especially sharp early.

It will be Daniel under center for at least next week and likely beyond. He completed 69.7 percent of his passes, had three touchdown passes, two interceptions averaging 257.5 yards across two starts in 2018. The Bears went 1-1 in those games. Maybe Daniel, being in his second year on the team, can go 2-0 and get the Bears to the much-needed bye. Nine Bears caught passes; seven caught multiple.

The Bad

Penalties have become an ugly theme to begin this season. The Bears entered Week 4 averaging 8.7 penalties per game. They had another seven on Sunday, many of the defensive variety. The Vikings didn’t make them pay but they cannot keep having this many penalties, in which they are currently ranked 28th in the NFL.

The ground game struggled mightily in this one. Chalk it up to Minnesota stacking the box and daring Daniel to beat them, but Chicago only managed 68 yards on 28 non-quarterback carries. Rookie David Montgomery was suffocated, going for 53 yards on 21 carries; a 2.5-yard average. They need to do better but the attempts (11 carries in the fourth quarter) are nice to see.

Matt Nagy had an overall stellar day calling the plays, maintaining balance and giving Daniel plays he looked comfortable with. But there were two plays in particular that stood out as questionable. One was another handoff to Cordarrelle Patterson on third-and-short that was predictably snuffed out. The other was the same call on a different down and distance that hit. Thus is life with Nagy calling plays.

Chicago again seems to have a clear weakness and it’s tempo offenses utilizing slants and screens. Minnesota’s late-game comeback attempt featured a lot of Cook screens. The Bears face the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, and Los Angeles Rams coming out of their bye. Each of those teams is capable of playing fast and use screens often.

The Ugly

This is simple: injuries. The body count jumped from one to three following last week (four counting Bobby Massie). It jumped to again with Smith being scratched just before the game after being announced as doubtful earlier in the day. Hopefully, he, along with Hicks, Long, and Gabriel returns soon.

No injury looms larger than that to Trubisky’s left shoulder. Nagy said he doesn’t think it will be a season-ending injury. Though that being the timeframe immediately discussed, the concern is warranted. Daniel did alright, but Minnesota didn’t gameplan for him and he is a limited passer. He will need to get by on his understanding of the offense but Chicago’s season is undoubtedly in question.

Chicago faces the Oakland Raiders across the pond in London next week then they go on bye. They return in Week 7 to a gauntlet of teams that are 12-7-1 through the first four weeks. Four of the teams made the playoffs in 2018. They get a one-game reprieve (maybe) when they get the New York Giants at home, but they end on a tough stretch the final five weeks.

The misguided claims for Daniel to start after Trubisky returns will surely be loud and proud a day after the win. But we must remember what happened last time this situation arose. Fans need to just hope the Bears can steal a win in England and get mostly healthy over the bye. If they need Daniel beyond that they can use the time to tweak the offense too.

Injured Bears Still Dominant

The injury report is growing at a scary rate, especially considering the great health the team had last season. It is fair to wonder how many more blows they can take before it’s death by a thousand cuts. The worst part is if any of the walking wounded are out for extended periods and their record suffers, they won’t have a first-round pick to ease the pain next off-season.

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