There are many parallels between the Chicago Bears matchup with the Vikings on the road and the Bears' recent road game against the Lions. This leads to the strong likelihood that the main path to victory for the Bears on Monday is learning from the many of mistakes they made when losing this year against both these teams.
I am all in for keeping Fields long-term but in the first play of the Vikings game earlier this season, he made a big blunder that led to an easy sack. The Vikings overloaded the Bears left side and it was easy to see they had no one to block the Vikings blitzer. Fields did not do anything to protect himself from this obvious blitz and seemingly acted like the blitzer was invisible.
Getsy needs to coach up Fields and QB1 needs to coach himself up to avoid any similar blunders in this game. They need to be ready to go with their best counter move to this same pass rush scenario among others they saw when last playing the Vikings. If Fields and Getsy can get in sync on smart counter moves that beat Flores's blitz-dominated chess moves, they have a very good chance to win this game.
The Vikings secondary much like the Lions' secondary last week is vulnerable if the Bears are willing to show some guts and play to win this game versus using the typical play-not-to-lose strategy that has dominated the Matt Eberflus era. The Vikings' second-best corner is also their fastest and tallest corner. That is Akayleb Evans, who is nursing an injured calf. He has been limited in practice this week. So even if he plays it is unlikely he will be 100%.
This is pretty significant because he is the only Vikings starting quality corner who runs in a sub 4.5 forty-yard dash. DJ Moore runs a 4.43, Mooney a 4.37, and Tyler Scott a 4.29. Flores also, rarely, if ever puts safeties deep to protect against the long ball. Early in the game, it would be smart for the Bears to move Fields out of the pocket where he is more consistently accurate when throwing the long ball. Admittedly, his accuracy deep when throwing from the pocket has been good but out of the pocket, very good.
After studying Fields' footwork, ad nauseam, it appears that removed from the pocket, Fields' footwork is more fluid, free, and easy. This makes me wonder if his long-term muscle memory dating back to college takes over when he does not have to be concerned as much about good footwork that is needed when preparing to throw the ball in the fast-paced brutal world of an NFL pocket.
Getting back to using the Bears three speedy wideouts to counter the blitz, anyone of these three wideouts should be able to outrun a Vikings cornerback on most if not all go and post routes. Fields on these obvious blitzes just needs to pick the side where it appears to have the obvious blitzer. If Flores wants to get all fancy and fake a blitz on one side to set up a blitz on the other side, then so be it.
The Bears can still incorporate some quick throw plays to beat his blitzes, however, Flores wants to play this chess match. Another thing in the Bears' favor is even if this is a disguised coverage and the defender falls back with no blitz, it still works in their favor. If Fields runs away from that side, and one of his speedy wideouts takes off like a rocket this defender near the LOS, can easily not be a factor in the play because if needed he can get blocked before getting near the Bears QB.
Depending on what pattern the Bears see Flores fall into from some of his initial defensive fronts and then in-play strategy, a dagger concept could work well against the Vikings. This play has a vertical route run by the slot guy, a deep dig medium route run by an outside WR, and a drag route not too far from the LOS run by a backside wideout.
This gives Fields three different levels of passes to choose from to outmaneuver the Vikings' defense. There might be more than a few keep-the-chains-moving plays, as well as some chunk, plays to be gotten if a dagger concept is used to counter Flores's creative aggressive coaching style.
This is not to suggest the Bears don't try to run a fair amount against the Vikings. However, similar to what I suggested last week against the Lions, it is a sound strategy to attack a vulnerable secondary first to set up the run. This early-on aggressiveness should lighten up the Vikings' LOS alignments and also give Flores lots to think about.
Using the pass to set up the run is still allowed even by a Bears coaching staff that, typically, avoids this strategy like the plague. Admittedly, the Bears' offensive line has been better at run blocking than pass pro in the Eberflus era. However, the Bears are, finally, fielding an offensive line that is not trying to adjust to injuries that have, typically, weakened their pass protection.
On the other side of the ball, Joshua Doubs' big problem is accuracy deep. This plays into the type of defense Eberflus prefers to employ. The Bears' head coach should be more than able to dial up a zone coverage defense within 15 yards or so of the LOS that contains a QB who has accuracy issues with deep passes regardless of his mobility. If not Matt Eberflus is about as useless as possible when it comes to leading the Bears to a victory.
Presumably, the Bears head coach will be spying on Joshua Doubs to a good if not great degree during the game. The tall and mobile Tremaine Edmunds is most likely the one who takes on this assignment most of the game. This gets us to just how very mediocre the Vikings are at running the ball. They rank 24th in overall rushing at 93.8 yards per game.
The Bears on the other hand are the second-best defense at stopping the run. They allow only 79.5 yards per game. In a Hoge and Jahns podcast Alec Lewis, the Athletic's Vikings guy acknowledged their run game is weak. He also expected that their best running back, Alexander Mattison at this point is looking like he will not be playing this game.
Even with the conservative, Eberflus making the defensive play calls, it would seem the Bears should be able to make the Vikings offense pretty one-dimensional. It is reasonable to assume the Bears head coach should be able to give his defense enough good leadership to contain an offense with a QB that lacks long-ball accuracy and also has a lackluster run game.
This gets us back to QB1 and the Bears offense. To beat the Vikings Justin Fields need to make better faster decision in the red zone than he did against the Lions. When JT Sullivan broke down Fields versus the Lions, he pointed out a few plays where Fields missed a golden opportunity to score a TD from the 18-yard line. Equanimeous St. Brown was wide open in the endzone on a post route. However, Fields chose to run the ball for 6 yards. If Fields wants to show everyone he is the real deal he needs to score touchdowns in the redzone by being smart and efficient.
Luke Getsy needs to do his share to get Fields to be his best. Hopefully, he will have learned how to get this done by viewing tapes of these games. in Week 2, the Eagles' strategy against the Vikings’ front was to run the ball a lot in the second half. It worked. The week after that the Chargers chose to get rid of the ball quickly to counter the Vikings blitzes. Both of these strategies should be used by the Bears on Monday night.
On one hand, you have the Lions and Vikings being coached up to play well even though both teams only have a few standout players. On the other hand with a similar amount of standout players including Fields with his potential, the Bears are a team that feels like their head coach keeps giving them sleeping pills.
Coach Eberflus has some big-time blinders on. They force him to only see only an,, extremely, conservative vision of his team's path to victory. A few years ago I thought Matt Nagy was borderline delusional. Every game he stuck his nose deep into his playlist on game day and seemingly ignored every sign and trend that each particular game was revealing to those watching it. I characterized Nagy's play calling as "What Would Andy Reid Do?"
Nagy and Eberflus are good guys but as head coaches, they are both cursed with a profound fear of failure. Eberflus obsesses over his team making any big mistakes that could lead to a loss, like turnovers. However, I am quite confident that a good psychologist would say that obsessing too much on something you do not want to happen, it will very likely lead to it happening.
Watching Eberflus as head coach I cannot help but be reminded that his mentor Rod Marinelli was 0-16 as the Lions' head coach back in 2008. His three years as the Lions head coach resulted in a 10-38 record. The capacity of these two as good defensive coordinators has not transferred over to being a good head coach.
Ironically, Rod Marinelli is the same coach that the Bears owners insisted on keeping as their defensive coordinator which led them to reject Bruce Arians as their head coach. Arians insisted on Todd Bowles as his defensive coordinator. History shows the Bears have continued to flounder after this whereas Bruce Arians and Bowles went on to win a Super Bowl for the Bucs. Of course, Tom Brady had a lot to do with this Super Bowl win. There can be no doubt that the Bears owners dropped the ball in hiring Marc Trestman over Arians.
I believe Justin Fields looked good against the Lions because during his time off he studied tape of the Bears losing to the Vikings as well as studying other games as well. It feels like during the four weeks he did not play, Justin embraced making quicker decisions than quickly throwing the ball. It is quite possible that his time off might have enabled Fields to improve his game enough to keep his job in Chicago after this season.
During the season, it is when the bye week arrives that players and coaches can reflect on self-evaluation to improve their performance. However, with this extra time maybe Fields was really able to do some serious soul-searching that ended up making him a more consistent and therefore better quarterback who can lead his teams to winning many more games than they lose.
This game against the Vikings could prove to be the turning point for Fields and the Bears that last week's Lions game was looking to become. However, this will only happen if not only Justin Fields learns from his mistakes but that his coaches do as well. They certainly have made enough mistakes to provide much food for thought in how they can get better.