One of the biggest signs for a contender in the NFL is that the team can fight through adversity on the field, even when conditions may truly be stacked against them.
On Sunday against a division rival at Soldier Field, the Chicago Bears did just that.
Down two starters on offense to start the game, and three starters on defense, the Bears dominated the Vikings for 55 minutes, en route to a hard-fought 16-6 victory to tie for first place in the NFC North.
It felt like it was going to be a long day for the Bears offense, when Chicago lost Mitchell Trubisky on the first drive to a shoulder injury, rolling left on third and four.
And although it wasn’t the smoothest possession, Chase Daniel came in ready to play, and led the Bears to a touchdown on the first drive. Head Coach Matt Nagy asked for a measurement and went for it on fourth and about a foot, requiring another measurement, but it was enough to move the chains, an aggressive call that represents Nagy at his best.
Nagy had a great balance of run and pass on the first drive, and Daniel calmly came in, stepped up in the pocket, and led the rest of the drive, culminating in a touchdown pass to Tarik Cohen.
The play was impressive, as Daniel looked off the safety, and hit Cohen on a four-yard out pattern to get the Bears on the board on a drive that took nearly half of the first quarter.
This game, with so many top players out and a formidable foe at home, was one of Nagy’s best play-calling performances – especially in the first half.
The balance of getting the ball to David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen out of the backfield, to go along with easy, out-patterns for Daniel to connect, showed that he isn’t overthinking plays quite as much as he did in 2018, and even earlier this season,
In addition to the stellar play-calling, Nagy also was two-for-two on challenges, which saved the Bears field position, and generated a turnover for the defense.
Allen Robinson was also a major bright spot for Chicago’s offense, finishing with seven catches for 77 yards on seven targets. Robinson is the clear-cut number one receiver, but seems to be returning to his Pro-Bowl caliber, security blanket form as well at the wideout position.
But, as has become customary with the success of the Chicago Bears, the stars of the show were on the defensive side of the ball.
Bigger names like Khalil Mack and Danny Trevathan put up terrific performances, but some of the players filling in for the starters became the unsung heroes, namely Roy Robertson-Harris, Nick Williams, and Nick Kwiatkowski.
Overall, the defense held the Vikings to just six points, collected six sacks and forced two turnovers. What was most impressive, though, is that the Vikings went over 20 minutes without even getting a first down in the game.
Khalil Mack was impressive, as always, and showed why he truly might be the most unstoppable force in the game of football. He finished with 1.5 sacks, and also forced a game-changing fumble on third and long in the second half, directly leading to points for the Bears offense.
Mack also set the edge in the run game, and drew a false start penalty and a hold in the first half.
Nick Kwiatkowski was absolutely outstanding filling in for Roquan Smith.
He was great in the run game, helping limit Dalvin Cook to just two yards per carry in the first half, and the Vikings team to just 40 total rushing yards.
Kwiatkowski also had a sequence in the third quarter that truly resembled an All-Pro player. He had a great open-field tackle on Cook in the flat on first down, and then had a sack and forced fumble on Kirk Cousins that forced the Vikings into a third-and-36 on the subsequent play.
Sherrick McManis had a major tackle on special teams, Nick Williams finished with two sacks, and it was just total Chicago domination for 90 percent of the game.
The phrase gets used often in team sports, but this Bears win was a definite team-effort with the amount of top players inactive.
As Mitchell Trubisky recovers from his dislocated shoulder, they can feel some relief that the backup in Daniel is more than capable of being the pocket passer that Nagy needs, and that their defense is, quite simply, the best in the league.
At 3-1 atop the NFC North, Chicago looks ahead to its next battle across the pond, as the Bears will face the 2-2 Oakland Raiders in London, and Mack will face his old team.