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MINNEAPOLIS — It’s not how you start, but how you finish.
Justin Fields and Cairo Santos both had a moment or two against the Vikings that didn’t go their way, but how the two finished the game helped the Chicago Bears secure a 12-10 victory on Monday Night Football against their NFC North rival.
Going into the primetime game at U.S. Bank Stadium, Santos had only missed one field goal on the season. On the Bears first offensive drive of the game, Fields helped get the offense well within Santos’ field-goal range. The veteran lined up for a 48-yard kick, but missed it to the right.
After the game, Fields admitted he was surprised that Santos missed the field goal because of how well he had been kicking the football.
“You have to really trust your work that you do, the operation, the line, which I do,” Santos said after the game. “Just kind of kept doing what we do. We didn’t have to change anything. The miss is on me. Just not finishing the kick, so I was disappointed for sure. It was eating me alive for a little while, but I knew I had to stay with it and do what we do and getting opportunities was awesome to get an opportunity to bounce back.”
Santos would get four more opportunities after his first missed attempt. He made a 25, 39, 55 and the game-sealing 30-yard field goal. The 55-yard attempt was significant for a few reasons. It was tied for Santos’ longest field goal of his career and to attempt that kick from that distance at the beginning of the fourth quarter showed the trust the coaching staff had in their kicker.
“Pregame we already have the line set,” Santos said. “I really know what the strategy is each drive, so I get ready with the net to whatever kicked I can be asked to do and just wait for coach to make a decision. So we can go for it, we could kick a long field goal, so him letting me kick a 55, especially after I didn’t execute a long one. I remember that thought going through my head just like, ‘Man, I love this coach for allowing me to do that.’ That confidence kinda passes on to me and on the kick I said, ‘Let’s go.’ Right before that it was almost like I knew the kick was going in just because of the confidence that he showed in me.”
On the following drive after Santos’ made 55-yard field goal, the Bears defense intercepted Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs for the fourth time. The Bears took over on the Minnesota 38-yard line up 9-3 with 12:32 left in the fourth quarter.
The Bears defense up to that point of the game had been dominant, and all the offense needed to do was make it a two-possession game and that may have sealed the victory. But five plays after Kyler Gordon’s interception, Fields fumbled the ball on second-and-10 — which ignited a spark for the Vikings.
Minnesota capitalized on the turnover and went on an 8-play, 77-yard touchdown drive. Just like that the Bears were down 10-9 with 5:54 left in the fourth quarter. Still, the Bears had another opportunity and time on the clock. But on third-and-10, Fields nearly gave the game away with his second lost fumble of the quarter.
“First off can’t fumble,” Fields said after the game. “Need better ball security on that and it’s crazy cause Roschon (Johnson) I think he fumbled a play or two before I fumbled on the first one, and I’m telling him ball security is the most important things right now. Then two plays later, I fumble. Then the second was like a back breaker.”
The Vikings took over on Chicago’s 43-yard line, but the Bears defense forced a quick three-and-out to give Fields and the offense one last opportunity to change the outcome of the game.
Fields led the offense on a 10-play, 66-yard drive, which included a 36-yard completion to DJ Moore in the middle of the field to put Santos well within his field goal range.
That play was one that Fields and Moore had been connecting on since the dog days of training camp. Moore saw the middle of the field open up and Fields delivered a strike.
“Guys never wavered,” Fields said. “I told the guys in the locker room, ‘I appreciate them for sticking beside me and believing in me.’ You know defense did a great job getting us the ball back for that last drive and the offense did a great job executing those plays. So it felt great and really just felt good fighting through the adversity. Ups and downs of the game. Guys never got too high or too low and we fought and finished in the end.”
Just a week prior, the Bears lost to the Lions at Ford Field despite being up 12 points with just 4:15 left in the game. The Bears weren’t going to let that same result happen again. At halftime, Fields said the message in the locker room was to simply finish and that clearly stuck with the team.
Even though Fields and Santos had their own individual errors, the team still had the belief those two could get the job done when they needed to most. That’s the mindset T.J. Edwards had in his teammates.
“Man, that’s our guy,” Edwards said about Santos. There’s no waiver in confidence from us when it comes to eight. He’s been automatic all year. I just kind of had a feeling that he was going to hit a big-time kick after that. I know how he rolls. He’s a competitor. He’s our guy. It was awesome seeing him make that at the end of the game. The celebration was nuts, so it’s good to see.”
Edwards made the final tackle on third-and-9 that forced the Vikings to punt. Then the Bears linebacker watched Fields as he led the offense to win the game.
“I mean I think everyone on our sideline knew when that time was going to come that he was going to make a play,” Edwards said. “O-line did a great job of holding up all drive, and obviously having those weapons, having two out there helps a lot. That’s our guy. He’s a playmaker for a reason. He’s a captain for a reason, and he makes some big-time plays, so it was awesome to see.”
The Bears will enter their Bye Week with a 4-8 record, and Fields believes this win was significant because of the impact it can create on the final five games of the regular season.
“As a team, we haven’t let our record define who we are,” Fields said. “We know who we are as a team. We know what we are capable of and it’s really just going out there and doing it. Going out there and executing and finishing the way we know how, the way we did tonight. Really just cleaning up the mistakes cause if you clean up my two fumbles, we’re probably not even in that situation. So just again, props to all the guys, coaches, teammates and sticking their head down and finishing.”
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