Monday Night Football will feature a division rivalry this week as the Minnesota Vikings (2-2) travel to Soldier Field in a matchup against the Chicago Bears (1-3). The Vikings are favored in this matchup but the Bears have been impressive at home this season against favored opponents. Here are the keys to a Chicago Bears victory in week 5.
1. Mitchell Trubisky
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Mike Glennon was an absolute disaster at quarterback for the Bears during the season’s first four games. Glennon’s lack of athletic ability, inability to get rid of the ball and turnovers hurt the Bears time and time again. The great thing about Mike Glennon is he played so poorly that John Fox had no choice but to make Trubisky the week five starter.
In order to succeed, Trubisky needs to extend plays when no one is open which shouldn’t be a problem with his athletic ability. At the same time, Trubisky needs to make sure he’s not trying to do too much. If the play is there, throw the football. Not every play needs to be a home run.
Trubisky has impressed Bears fans in the preseason but Monday Night Football against one of the better defensive minds in the game is an entirely different task.
There will be growing pains but if Trubisky can extend plays and distribute the ball well he can more than makeup for the inevitable rookie mistakes. His roll out ability will also force defenses to actually honor the play action which could open up the running lanes with teams fearing a quarterback who can roll outside the pocket.
2. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen
Ah, the running back tandem Bears fans have been dreaming of. For years Chicago had one of the best backs in Matt Forte and looked for someone to help take some of the stress off his heavy workload with no success. They have a strong, every down runner in Jordan Howard and in the fourth round on the 2017 draft they found the perfect compliment to Howard in Tarik Cohen.
Howard will run over over defenders and Cohen will run past them. With a young quarterback making his first start against a defense that loves to use confusing looks the run game will be the most important aspect of the this game. In order to force the Vikings to honor play action and allow the young quarterback a moving pocket the run game needs to be success and force the linebackers forward on every play.
With the Bears receiver group ravaged with injuries they need to lean heavily on their talented offensive line and skilled running back duo.
3. The Tight Ends
During the offseason the Bears did very little to address the wide receiver position but did plenty to address the tight end position. Another distinguishing factor between the tight end and wide receiver groups is only one has been ravaged by injury.
During the offseason the Bears added Dion Sims from the Miami Dolphins, drafted Ashland standout Adam Shaheen and Zach Miller returned from injury. With wide receivers Cameron Meredith and Kevin White going down for the season the Bears are in dire need of someone to catch the football and the tight end group should be able to provide exactly that.
Miller has proven over the course of his career he is an effective pass-catcher, the only problem is he often finds himself missing time due to injury. Dion Sims is well known for his blocking ability which can be vital to helping open up rushing lanes for Howard and Cohen while also allowing Trubisky extra time in the pocket to throw the football. Less known about Sims is he excels at finding soft spots against zone defenses which the Bears should take advantage of to get Sims involved in the passing game. Shaheen is still getting accustomed to the NFL after playing division-II football throughout his entire collegiate career. Shaheen has caught one touchdown this season but the Bears need far better production out of the rookie if they expect to get to at least eight wins this season, including Monday night.
4. Pass Rush and Winning the Turnover Battle
Once again, Vic Fangio has shown why he is one of the NFL’s best defensive coordinators. Through four games this season, the Bears are 10th in yards allowed per game at 306.3, 15th in passing yards allowed per game at 220.8 and 5th best in the league against the run allowing 85.5 rushing yards per game.
Though the defense has played well through four games, one category the Bears are painfully lacking production in is sacks. The Bears have only managed to record nine sacks (2.2 per game) which is simply not going to cut it in the NFL. Chicago has talented players on defense capable of rushing the passer including Eddie Goldman, Leonard Floyd, Pernell McPhee and Akiem Hicks. They need those players to come through big on Monday night.
Case Keenum showed everyone last year why he is a backup quarterback and if the Bears manage to get pressure on him it could lead to some much needed turnovers. The Bears have managed zero Interceptions and three recovered fumbles thus far.
If the Bears want to win on Monday they will need to win the turnover battle. (A steady pass rush + Case Keenum) – Mike Glennon = the Bears have a great chance to win the turnover battle.
5. Don’t Make It Obvious Danny Trevathan Is Out
On Thursday night, linebacker Danny Trevathan delivered an absolutely devastating hit on Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams. Trevathan hit Adams hard as their helmets collided after Adams momentum was mostly stopped and at the end of the play Adams had to be carted off the field.
Now, I don’t believe the hit was intentional by Trevathan. He was just a player trying to make a play for his defense and his history should speak for itself (no prior suspensions or fines from the league office.) Either way, with the the league pushing for player safety and Adams getting injured on the play a suspension was the obvious result. Trevathan was suspended for two games, appealed and had the suspension reduced to one game which will be served on Monday night.
The Bears already lost Jerrell Freeman and Nick Kwiatkoski to injury making backups John Timu and Christian Jones vital to their success against the Vikings.
Jones and Timu are both capable linebackers in their own respects, Timu usually finds himself in the right spot and Jones rarely misses a tackle when he’s in the proper position. Obviously neither are the caliber of player that Trevathan is but both have provided the Bears with some much needed depth. In order to win, the Bears don’t need them to make star-caliber plays but both will be needed to make (and most importantly not mess up) the routine ones. If Timu and Jones hold their own the way they have in the past and don’t hurt the Bears, it will put them in a great position to win in primetime.