Scattered Thoughts After Scouting Chicago’s Last Game

Nov 14, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks on as players warm up before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Admittedly, I’m using the term “scouting” pretty loosely. My credentials fall woefully short in terms of anything official. Nevertheless, the goal was to watch the condensed game to get a sense of what Minnesota will encounter in their upcoming Chicago game.

Indeed, during this past week, I decided to take a few moments to watch the condensed film of the Bears and Packers game from this past Sunday night. The basic idea was to get a sense of what Justin Fields can and can’t do, what kind of challenge David Montgomery will present, and how the defense will attack Captain Kirk. I’ll admit that I need to resist the temptation to simply drone on about how horrendous the Packers’ special teams are. Instead, I’ll be providing some scattered thoughts about the Bears, a team that is navigating a remarkably difficult Covid situation.

The Minnesota at Chicago game is one that will either prolong or eliminate the team’s playoff chances, so it’s an important one.

The Vikings Want To Put The Game in Justin Fields’ Hands

The kid is talented. He may end up being a tremendous QB, but he had several rough plays against Green Bay. Like so many of us, Fields can struggle because his greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. He’s amazing at extending plays, allowing him to make magic happen. It’s those same abilities, though, that lead to brutal turnovers. He had two picks and a lost fumble against the Packers.

Fields is elusive; expect him to slip out of the pocket on many occasions. He’ll likely pick up several first downs with his legs. Vikings fans everywhere will be supremely annoyed with this reality. One wonders if the Vikings will turn to a QB spy to try to nullify him.

Fields isn’t afraid to throw into tight coverage. Anyone who has watched Bashaud Breeland play this season will know that the coverage often isn’t tight. In any case, in the rare instances that the team’s corners do play things well, Fields will still give his receivers a shot. Again, his greatest strength is his greatest weakness. Fields throws a TD on 2.6% of his passes; he throws an INT on 4.3% of his passes. He has played in 11 games, putting together 6 passing TDs and 10 interceptions. He has fumbled the ball 10 times.

All of these details suggest it’ll be a tough night for the rookie. One gets the feeling that even after all the struggles, Fields will find a way to make the game supremely difficult for the Vikings’ defense, especially if the Bears run the ball well.

Shutting Down The Run Means Winning The Game

The Bears want to run the ball with David Montgomery. Who can blame them? Their rookie QB needs support, and Matt Nagy is in over his head. Plus, Montgomery is actually a really good back. Chicago used Wildcat, RPOs, and some pre-snap motion. In my estimation, shutting down Montgomery means the Vikings would have a very, very good chance of winning the ball game.

In three games against Minnesota, Montgomery averages 25 carries, 104 rushing yards, and a TD. Over these past two weeks, he has had 8 catches and then 6 catches. It’ll be crucial for the Pierce/Tomlinson duo to dominate the LOS. It’ll also be very helpful if the Vikings can jump out to a sizeable lead. Force Chicago to get away from a balanced offense.

Keep in mind, though, that Chicago doesn’t only lean on Montgomery. Jakeem Grant Sr. is a legit weapon on specials and on offense:

Don’t let the “senior” portion of his name fool you. Grant can really move. The also had a play getting Grant to the edge with five lead blockers, catching GB completely off guard. Take a peak at this really impressive play, one that features Grant showing off his wheels:

Kirk Cousins Is Going to Be Pressured

Having Christian Darrisaw back will make a difference, especially if the iOL continues to show improvement. Nevertheless, expect Prime Time Kirk to need to deal with some legit pressure. At times, the Bears were content to only bring 3 men. They can rely on stunts to generate confusion while forcing the QB to hold onto the ball for a touch longer since there are so many men in coverage. Minnesota may struggle here.

Robert Quinn has 14 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Khalil Mack has 6 sacks, but you should remember that he has missed time due to injury. With Adam Thielen looking very questionable for MNF, it’ll likely again fall on Justin Jefferson to carry the receiving load. Moving him into the slot early and often is wise. Why wrestle with Jaylon Johnson if you don’t have to? Positioning him in the slot means quicker completions, so the pass rush will struggle to get home.

Dalvin Cook, moreover, will again need to be sensational, especially with Alexander Mattison likely out.

The Vikings, as a team, have only allowed 18 sacks this season. It’s not because the OL is dominant. Klint Kubiak and Cousins have made a concerted effort to get the ball out quickly and efficiently. That’ll need to continue against the Bears. There are rumblings that the team is starting to give up; Jaylon Johnson suggested some guys are trying to tank. Minnesota should give Chicago a reason to give up on Monday. Show them early that they don’t have what it takes to hang with the Vikings’ skill. To do so, Cousins will need to be much more crisp than his last game.

The Chicago pass rush will get home and be disruptive. Even still, Cousins should thrive in this game. He’s facing a 4-9 team on the verge of completely quitting on their awful HC as they navigate an astonishing amount of absences (which include all three of the coordinators).

Losing the Chicago game would be right up there with Minnesota blowing it against Detroit.