Maybe I am biased, but if you ask me the Chicago flag is one of the best, and most recognizable, city flags in the nation. Four stars emblazoned across the middle, each representing a part of Chicago’s rich history.
No word yet on if the city is currently considering a fifth star to commemorate the 2019 Chicago Bears defense, although I am sure that’s coming any day now.
Taking a page out of the NHL’s playbook where they award the Three Stars of the night after each game, I thought it would make an interesting recap to look at the top four performers from each Bears game. After all, the NFL always has to one-up other professional sports leagues.
So who were this week’s Four Stars?
Williams spent his first three seasons with the Chiefs and Dolphins before not playing at all in 2017. He signed with the Bears before the 2018 season and played in only two games. He was a borderline roster player whose best-case scenario looked like a journeyman rotational defensive linemen.
All of a sudden in his fifth NFL season at age 29 he has been an extremely effective player, recording the first sacks of his career. He made his first start on Sunday replacing the injured Akiem Hicks and responded with seven tackles and two sacks giving him four sacks on the season.
With Hicks out against the league’s premier rushing offense, it looked like the Bears were in some trouble. Williams stepped up and had a huge part in limited Dalvin Cook, the NFL’s leading rusher, to just 35 yards on 14 carries.
The Bears were already facing an uphill battle before the game even started due to multiple injuries to key players. Then Mitch Trubisky went down with what appears to be a dislocated shoulder early in the first quarter.
For an offense that was already struggling this season to move the ball, this looked like a death blow to the Bears chances against a quality divisional opponent.
Daniel responded by completing 73 percent of his passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly he didn’t turn the ball over. He did enough in this game for the Bears to win even if it wasn’t flashy.
He was cool and calm in the pocket and accurately put the ball in his playmaker’s hands. If the Bears did not get ultra-conservative in the second half his stats probably would have looked even better as he had Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes in his sights all night and never looked back.
It also should be noted that the Vikings have the best defense the Bears have faced this season.
With Trubisky out at least for this next week’s game, the Bears should be in good hands. Daniel won’t win the Bears any games. He also won’t lose any. And with this defense playing the way it is that’s all the Bears need until Trubisky comes back.
Nick Kwiatkowski has his issues in coverage. Luckily, his first start of the season came against a run-first offense that played right into his strengths. Coverage liabilities aside, he is at his best when asked to flow downhill to the ball and make plays. And make plays he did.
With Roquan Smith out for the game for personal reasons, Kwiatkowski stepped up and led the Bears with nine tackles (8 solo) including a strip-sack that knocked the Vikings out of field goal range.
Kwiatkowski was replaced on most obvious passing downs by Kevin Pierre-Louis (who had a good game of his own) but Kwiatkowski held his own in coverage in this one as well. Combined both players were targeted 11 times and only gave up 44 total yards.
This was a classic example of Chuck Pagano putting his players in a position to succeed. He knows what each of his players do well and adjusted accordingly to Smith being out despite only finding out about it minutes before kickoff.
What else can you say about Khalil Mack at this point? He is the best defensive player in football. He’s the rightful Defensive Player of the Year.
How about this: Mack is the best and most impactful Bears defensive player in my lifetime.
This is not a knock on Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman or Julius Peppers. All four were great players and deserved Hall of Famers. None of them ever completely changed the outlook of games like Mack has done so far this season.
He’s on pace for 18 sacks and 16 forced fumbles despite being double and triple blocked nearly every play. On one play the Vikings used four different players to try and stop Mack.
That kind of attention makes every player’s job around him that much easier.
In this one, he had multiple quarterback pressures and got to Kirk Cousins for 1.5 sacks including a strip-sack that directly led to a Bears field goal despite the offense actually losing yards on their three plays.
Next week he gets to play his former team who didn’t think he was good enough to pay. I am currently setting the over/under on his total sacks against the Raiders at 15.5.
The story of this game is going to be the backup Bears who stepped up in the absence of key players. In addition to Williams, Daniel, and Kwiatkowski, Javon Wims stepped up in place of Taylor Gabriel (concussion) with four receptions for 56 yards. Ted Larsen replaced an injured Kyle Long (hip) and then Rashad Coward stepped up when Larsen was knocked out of the game.
Ryan Pace gets a lot of credit for the Khalil Mack trade but the depth he has been able to accumulate is equally impressive considering where this roster was at when he took over.
The Bears might get Gabriel, Hicks, and Smith back for next week’s London game against the Raiders.
The smart play might be giving them an extra week of rest, and no jet lag, knowing the backups are more than capable of filling in.