Welcome to my weekly Chicago Bears Red Zone Report where I take a deep dive into every red zone possession on both sides of the ball.
A team’s success or failure inside the red zone has a strong correlation to its overall performance. In many ways, it’s do or die inside the 20.
In a game that was decided by one score, it was the play of the Bears’ defense in the red zone that ended up hurting the team the most. More on that in a bit …
This week, there were six total red zone trips. Two from the Bears’ offense and four on defense.
Let’s see how they fared …
Trip 1 (Score: Vikings lead 21-3)
Quarter: 2 | Time Remaining: 1:08
How They Got There: After a Vikings’ shanked punt that had the Bears starting their drive at midfield, Justin Fields hit Darnell Mooney for a 39-yard completion on the first play. I’m sure you’ve seen it a few times …
This had the Bears setting up shop at the Vikings’ 11 for their first red zone trip of the day. Down three scores, it was a must-score moment.
The Result: The Bears punched it in on a third-down run from David Montgomery.
Analysis: After being shut out last week inside the 20, scoring a touchdown here gave the Bears a big boost of confidence. The Bears only gained two yards on their first two plays. Those came on a first-down run from Montgomery, where the yards were tough to find in the middle of the Vikings’ defense. Fields was pressured on the next play, bought some time, but ultimately threw an incompletion that could’ve been dangerous as it was immediately batted up into the air.
Facing third-and-8 from the nine-yard line, the Bears caught the Vikings off guard with a run play. Montgomery’s tough running, paired with some good blocking at the second level from Lucas Patrick, Sam Mustipher and Equanimeous St. Brown, was enough to find paydirt.
Gutsy call from Getsy that paid off.
Side Note: You have to love the reaction from Fields on that score. He was thrilled for his team to find the end zone, even if that meant taking the ball out of his hands on this third-and-long in the red zone.
Trip 2 (Score: Vikings lead 21-10)
Quarter: 3 | Time Remaining: 11:09
How They Got There: Justin Fields made two big-time throws, and a critical run, on the drive that enabled the Bears to find the red zone for the second time. The first was the 18-yard completion to St. Brown along the right sideline on a throw that displayed some of Fields’ growth as he used some touch to put the ball where it needed to be. Montgomery lost six on a first-down run, but Fields gained those yards back with a scramble on second down.
This gave the Bears a crucial third-and-10. The Vikings brought extra pressure, but Fields didn’t flinch and found Cole Kmet over the middle for 23 yards, gaining the first down and then some. Montgomery barrelled his way for five yards on the following play, and the Bears were officially inside the 20.
The Result: Velus Jones Jr. scores his first career touchdown on his first-ever touch on offense.
Analysis: It’s hard to complain here. It only took the Bears two plays to find the end zone for the second-straight drive and red zone trip. Fields gained nine yards on a scramble to give the Bears first-and-goal from the nine. This was impressive as pressure was crashing down from his blindside. But Fields felt it, spun and ended up finding some space to roam.
On the very next down, Jones Jr. scored on a very good catch and run off a pop-pass to the right end. Montgomery had a key block too that helped seal the deal. Kmet’s block also helped seal the edge enough for Jones to get around it. Jones’ vision and ability to weave between defenders in congested space was also impressive.
Credit to Luke Getsy for the play call and to the Bears on the field who executed. Jones Jr. keeping his knees up while extending the ball over the plane was another impressive element to this score.
Offensive Summary: 2 Red Zone Trips, 2 Touchdowns (100% conversion)
- David Montgomery: 2 carries, 11 yards, 1 TD
- Justin Fields: 1-of-2, 9 yards, 1 TD
- Fields Rushing: 1 carry, 9 yards
- Average yards gained on first down: 5.5 (was 1 last week)
- Average yards to go on third down: 8 (only faced one and scored a TD off it)
- Plays Ran: 5 | 40 TD%
- Negative plays: 0
Trip 1 (Score: Tied 0-0)
Quarter: 1 | Time Remaining: 9:21
How They Got There: The Vikings dinked and dunked their way down the field.
The Result: Dalvin Cook scores on a one-yard run on first-and-goal. It took them nine plays to methodically march into the red zone. A Kirk Cousins’ 16-yard completion to Justin Jefferson on a crossing route is what got them inside the 20.
Analysis: The Bears failed to provide much resistance as the Vikings went 13 yards in three plays to score the opening-drive touchdown. Cousins was able to find easy completions to Adam Theilen and Jefferson before Cook scored on an easy one-yard run.
Jaquan Brisker was in the backfield, however, he was unable to make the play. It’s a tough ask of him, but he was in position. Roquan Smith also got consumed by a block and found himself going backward.
Trip 2 (Score: Vikings lead 7-0)
Quarter: 1 | Time Remaining: 0:28
How They Got There: Just like their first possession, the Vikings were able to easily cruise down the field. It took nine plays before the Bears could get Minnesota into third down. Cousins found Thielen for the seven yards and the conversion, which put the Vikings at the 20.
The Result: Dalvin Cook scores a touchdown from five yards out on first-and-goal.
Analysis: It was just too easy. Cousins found Jefferson in the soft spot of the Bears’ defense for 15 yards on the first play. Cook cleaned it up on the following play as he found the end zone for the second time in two drives.
Was it play-calling? Execution? Probably both. I’m sure the Bears didn’t want Jefferson to be that open. It doesn’t help that the Bears allowed Cousins to buy extra time and step up into the pocket.
Cook going practically untouched to the right end shouldn’t be a surprise as opponents have been attacking the Bears’ edges with success over the last few weeks. The Vikings simply took advantage of a glaring weakness they saw on film.
Trip 3 (Score: Vikings lead 14-0)
Quarter: 2 | Time Remaining: 8:44
How They Got There: The Vikings caught the Bears off guard with a trick play where Jefferson threw it across the field to Cook who was able to pick up a 23-yard chunk, which placed Minnesota in the red zone for the third time in three drives.
The Result: Jalen Reagor scores a one-yard touchdown off a pop pass.
Analysis: Minnesota decided to keep it on the ground, and it worked as they scored in three plays. The Bears did a good job of bottling up an Alexander Mattison run on first down, but he was able to gain seven yards up the gut on the next play. The Bears did knock the ball out, but the back was called down by contact.
The Vikings used some additional tomfoolery to punch it in as they used misdirection to get the Bears to bite and took advantage of them taking some false steps in the wrong direction as Reagor was … stop me if you heard this before … untouched for the one-yard score.
Roquan Smith had a chance to make a play in the backfield but whiffed.
Trip 4 (Score: Bears lead 22-21)
Quarter: 4 | Time Remaining: 3:37
How They Got There: The Vikings understood the assignment as they slowly moved downfield, chewed up the clock and ultimately found themselves in go-ahead scoring position. The Bears had the Vikings in third down three times by the time they reached the 20, and gave up conversions each time.
A Cousins’ third-down scramble that picked up the first is what put the Vikings in the red zone for the final time.
The Result: Kirk Cousins scored the game-winning touchdown off a third-down quarterback sneak.
Analysis: On one hand the Bears did a better job as the Vikings didn’t immediately score after reaching the red zone like they did the first three times.
On the other hand … they couldn’t make the stop. They got the Vikings into third down two more times inside the 20, but failed to get off the field. This chewed up more clock and ultimately gave the Vikings a seven-point lead instead of a two-pointer.
If they would’ve made this red zone stop, the Bears would’ve only needed a field goal to win, which is a much simpler ask of that unit.
As much angst and blame has been put on Smith-Marsette, Bears Fans should be equally upset by the performance in the red zone as they surrendered all 29 points there. A stop or two, especially on this final drive, could’ve easily changed the outcome of this game.
The Bears have been better than this. Bend, but don’t break. Unfortunately, they broke. Time and time again.
Defensive Summary: 4 Red Zone Trips, 4 Touchdowns Surrendered (100% conversion)
- Plays Ran: 15
- Negative Plays Forced: 0
- Rushing Touchdowns Allowed: 3
- Kirk Cousins: 5-of-7, 36 yards, 1 TD
- Third Downs: 3-of-3, 2 TD