Finally, the Bears flung the monkey off their backs. They won a game, snapping a six-game losing streak.
Next comes the hard part – stringing wins together. The Bears hold slim playoff hopes, which vanished a little more with every loss over the past two months. But there is a chance, and the best chance they have is if they win out. Next up is the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears (6-7) and the Vikings (6-7) will square off in a must-win NFC North matchup Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Here are three things to know about the Vikings.
Like the Bears, the Vikings are in desperation mode
With identical 6-7 records, Sunday’s matchup is vital for both teams’ playoff chances. Each team most likely needs to win out to reach the postseason. There’s still a chance an 8-8 team could attain the No. 7 seed in the NFC, but the Bears and the Vikings have tough NFC matchups looming (the Bears against Green Bay; the Vikings against New Orleans). If they want to make the postseason, even at 8-8, this is not the week to lose.
The Vikings, after a 1-5 start, have resurrected their season with five wins in their last seven games, including a Nov. 1 win over the Packers. A 26-14 loss to Tampa Bay last week dropped them into a tie with the Bears for the eighth spot in the NFC. As it stands now, both teams trail the 7-6 Arizona Cardinals.
When the Bears lost to the Vikings on Nov. 16, they sacked Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins just once. In a loss to Tampa Bay last week, the Buccaneers downed Cousins six times via sack. Cousins fumbled the ball twice, recovering it once and losing it another time.
The recipe for success against Cousins remains the same – pressure him. The Bears weren’t successful in that area last month. He made them pay with 292 yards through the air and two touchdowns.
The good news is the Bears had their best day in pass rush last week against Houston with seven sacks. They need that to carry over to Week 15. Prior to the Tampa game, Cousins had played a string of quality games, with a passer rating at 99.5 or higher in six consecutive games.
It still starts with Dalvin
The Bears found mild success slowing Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook on Nov. 16. It’s hard to look at a 96-yard performance and say it was a bad game, but Cook needed 30 carries to do it (3.2 yards per carry) and found his most success after Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks left the game in the second half with a hamstring injury. Having Hicks back and healthy should be a boost for the Bears.
Cook remains the linchpin to the Vikings offense. He is averaging 5.0 yards per carry on the season with 1,352 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Each of the past two games, Cook has totaled more than 100 rushing yards.