Chicago Bears’ Week 8 Report Card

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of strange things tend to happen on Halloween, and the Monday night matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears further proved that notion. For only the second time this season, the Bears walked away from a game victorious, defeating the Vikings by the score of 20-10. This win doubles Chicago win total at home from last year, and gives them some much-needed good news going into their bye week.

By far, this was the Bears’ best game of the 2016 season. The offense gained 403 total yards against the No. 1 defense in the NFL, while the defense allowed Minnesota to convert on only two of their 15 third downs, and ended the night with five sacks. For the Bears’ sake, hopefully this wasn’t a fluke, and they can build off of this win after their extended break.

Quarterback

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Jay Cutler’s return to the field, since spraining his thumb, turned out to be a pleasant one. Cutler regained control of the Bears’ offense, and did so by completing 20 of 31 pass attempts for 252 yards and a touchdown. Adding an aspect that was missing with Brian Hoyer, Cutler used his legs well in the pocket to avoid pressure, and improvised well, especially when shoveling a pass to rookie running back Jordan Howard to avoid getting sacked. The veteran QB also distributed the ball well, hitting eight different receivers. But, Cutler did get lucky in the first half, when Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes dropped what could have been a pick-six.

Grade: B

Running Backs

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After two forgettable outings in Weeks 6 and 7, Jordan Howard had the best game of his young career. Howard once again proved that he is able to carry the load in Chicago’s running game, and did so with both Ka’Deem Carey and Jeremy Langford active for this game. The fifth-round draft pick finished the game with 153 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown, and added four catches for 49 yards. These numbers are definitely eye-popping, but what makes them even more impressive is the fact that Howard and the Bears did this against the Vikings’ third-ranked run defense.

Grade: A

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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With Cutler’s return, it was assumed that Alshon Jeffery was potentially in for a big night. However, Jeffery’s first half was shaky, with zero catches on four targets from Cutler, which included a drop in the end zone early in the second quarter. Jeffery appeared to be at times on a different page than Cutler, but the fifth-year veteran receiver finished the game with four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Zach Miller was a big part of the passing game, hauling in seven passes for a game-high 88 yards.

Grade: B-

Offensive Line

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Even with Pro Bowl guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton sidelined, only one sack was surrendered by the Bears’ offensive line. However, Cutler did find himself on the ground after passing the ball at times, and dancing around in the pocket to avoid Minnesota’s pass rushers. But in the running game, the O-line was the main reason for Howard’s career night, and manhandled the Vikings’ dominant defensive front.

Grade: B

Defensive Line

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Chicago’s defensive line took full advantage of Minnesota’s porous offensive line. As expected, the Bears shut down the Vikings’ running game, allowing only 57 yards on the ground. What stood out even more is that three of the five sacks Chicago recorded were by defensive linemen. Defensive end Akiem Hicks found his way to the quarterback twice, while fellow defensive end Cornelius Washington added a sack of his own.

Grade: A

Linebackers

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For the second consecutive week, rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd recorded a sack. Pernell McPhee also had a sack, and found himself putting pressure on Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford a number of other times. Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan both did their job manning the inside, especially late in the first half when Minnesota was knocking at the door inside the five-yard line.

Grade: A

Defensive Backs

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Chicago’s young and inexperienced defensive backs did a good job of holding their own against Bradford and Minnesota’s passing game. Safety Adrian Amos played a huge part in the goal line stand late in the first half, keeping the Vikings out of the end zone going into halftime. The only blemish on the secondary is that they surrendered a touchdown in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-four, giving Minnesota a glimmer of hope late in the game.

Grade: B

Special Teams

For the most part, everything on special teams went well. Kicker Connor Barth connected on both of his field goal attempts and on both of his extra points. And, punter Pat O’Donnell pinned three of his five punts inside the 20-yard line. However, O’Donnell did shank one for only 38 yards in the first quarter, putting the Vikings on the 50-yard line. Rookie Cre’Von LeBlanc still has some learning to do in the punt return game. LeBlanc failed to catch a punt around the 20-yard line in the first quarter, resulting in the ball being downed at the five-yard line.

Grade: B

Coaching

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Obviously, the defensive game plan by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio worked. The pleasant surprise was the balance on the offensive side of the ball. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains kept the NFL’s best defense honest with a game plan that included 33 called pass plays and 28 called run plays. The official stamp of approval was given by Cutler, who gave Loggains numerous thumbs-up signals throughout the game after big plays.

Grade: A

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