A football game featuring the debut of No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky and the return of Sam Bradford was hijacked by two defenses that refused to serve as sacrificial lambs for those quarterbacks. The Bears' and Vikings' defenses dominated most of "Monday Night Football" -- the score was 3-2 at halftime! -- and in the end, it was a defense that won the football game.
That defense belonged to the Vikings.
In a low-scoring affair -- an old-fashioned football game some might say -- the Vikings clipped the Bears 20-17 at Soldier Field. With the win, the Vikings moved to 3-2. Despite a knee injury to Bradford, which forced him to miss the past three games and the entire second half of Monday's game, they're very much alive in the NFC playoff picture.
Filling in for Bradford after he was forced to exit the game late in the first half, Case Keenum provided a jolt to a previously anemic Vikings offense, playing safe but effective enough football, and running back Jerick McKinnon took over offensively late in the game. But it's the Vikings' stingy defense that deserves the credit for the win. Even when they were giving up yards in the first half, they made timely plays to force punts in Vikings territory. In the second half, they took it to the Bears outside of a few fluky plays. And when it came time for them to win the game, they delivered.
With just over two minutes remaining in a 17-17 game, Vikings safety Harrison Smith picked off Trubisky to set up a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds.
Meanwhile, the Bears dropped to 1-4, but their ambitions don't involve the playoffs. The rest of this season is all about Trubisky's development.
Speaking of Trubisky, let's kick off our seven takeaways with an in-depth look at how he fared in his first-ever start. The Vikings won, but it's Trubisky who draws the most intrigue.
1. Trubisky's debut
A New Hope officially arrived in Chicago on Monday night.
After decades of inept quarterback play, eight seasons of the maddeningly promising, yet inconsistent Jay Cutler -- a shimmering penny out of reach in the subway grate -- and four games of the unwatchable Mike Glennon, the Bears' new quarterback hope made his NFL debut against the Vikings on Monday night. He didn't wow anyone. He also didn't disappoint until his game-losing interception. He was exactly what should've been expected out of a rookie playing in his first NFL game against one of the league's best defenses.
The Vikings won the coin toss and deferred, which meant Trubisky didn't have to watch and wait any longer. The Trubisky era began with a standing ovation as he trotted out onto the field, two straight handoffs, and then finally a passing play on third-and-6. Trubisky threw an absolute dart to Kendall Wright on a sideline route for a first down.
Trubisky's first series didn't result in any points -- it stalled after a holding penalty -- but he demonstrated his impressive skillset. He was on schedule. He was athletic outside the pocket. He threw downfield darts -- most of which weren't corralled by the Bears' lackluster receivers. And all of that happened on the first series alone.
He still a padawan -- the Force is with him, but he is not a Jedi yet -- stuck on an offense without a capable receiver, hence the Bears' low scoring total. His coaches and teammates did him no favors with the play-calling (overly conservative) and performance (drops and penalties abound). Yet he overcame his supporting case to flash the traits that made him so enticing to the Bears that they decided to trade up one spot to draft him.
Trailing by eight points in the fourth quarter, Trubisky mounted an 11-play, 79-yard scoring drive that involved a lucky as hell touchdown pass to tight end Zach Miller ...
... and the trickiest two-point conversion run in the history of two-point conversions and tricks.
The Bears tied the game at 17 with 12:24 to play. Trubisky got a chance to finish the job with 2:32 remaining with the ball at his own 10-yard line.
Instead, he threw the ball to Vikings safety Harrison Smith.
Which had the Bears looking like the porg in the new "Star Wars" trailer.
So no, he wasn't perfect. He made plenty mistakes -- like his fumble at the end of the first half that set up the Vikings inside the red zone.
He nearly got a receiver killed with a throw that led him straight into a incoming safety. He nearly threw a pick to a defensive lineman that would've made Glennon proud. Heck, his first touchdown should've been picked in the end zone. His final stat line was not impressive.
In all, he went 12 of 25 for 128 yards (5.1 yards per attempt), one touchdown, one pick, and a 60.1 passer rating. But the Bears can walk away from Monday's game hopeful of a better future. The raw attributes are there. Now, he just needs to hone them. Fortunately, he'll get that chance over the course of the Bears' already lost season. Unfortunately, he'll be forced to develop without an actual WR1 on the field.
Regardless of what happens, it'll be fun to watch. Well, more fun than watching Glennon, at least.
2. Vikings come alive with Keenum, McKinnon
The first points of the game belonged to the Bears' defense, which forced a safety on the Vikings' third series near the end of the first quarter. Responsible for the safety was last year's first-round pick, Leonard Floyd, who brought down Bradford. But blame Bradford and Bradford alone.
For some reason, Bradford behaved as if it was practice and he was wearing a red jersey. There's a lack of pocket awareness, and then there's being completely devoid of pocket awareness.
The Bears got after Bradford, who didn't look healthy in his return from a knee injury that cost him three games. He didn't reach positive passing yards until the second quarter. He couldn't navigate within the pocket or put enough mustard on any of his downfield throws. He was pulled right before halftime, finishing 5 of 11 for 36 yards (3.3 YPA) and a 53.6 passer rating.
For the entire first half, the Vikings failed to move the ball with a hobbled Bradford under center. Finally, the Vikings came to their senses and put in Keenum at the end of the half. The move worked.
On the first series on the second half, Keenum led a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with this pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Keenum wound up going 17 of 21 for 140 yards (6.7 YPA), one touchdown, no picks, and a 110.3 passer rating.
On their second series of the second half, the Vikings scored another touchdown. This time, it had little to do with Keenum. It was all McKinnon, who finished with 95 yards and a score on 16 carries (5.9 YPA).
Of note: The Bears entered the game without starting inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman (injured) and Danny Trevathan (suspended). And during the game, they lost fill-in linebacker John Timu. The absence of starting-caliber linebackers hurt the Bears down the stretch, as holes began to open up for McKinnon.
Back to the Vikings' quarterback situation, though. The Vikings are going to need a completely healthy Bradford if they want to journey to the playoffs, so it's worth wondering if they should let him completely heal while Keenum leads the offense. A partially healthy Bradford isn't going to help them accomplish much of anything. Keenum might not be any good -- he's not -- but he's better than a one-legged Bradford.
Keep an eye on how the Vikings handle Bradford's health moving forward. And also keep an eye on Teddy Bridgewater, who is expected to return from the PUP list after Week 6.
3. Pat O'Donnell: The Bears' best QB?
That's a joke -- kinda. The Bears' first touchdown came in the third quarter via their punter's arm when O'Donnell hit Benny Cunningham for
That touchdown brought the Bears to within one point of the Vikings. That completion was the longest passing play of the Bears' season. O'Donnell finished with two more passing yards than Bradford. And he recorded a maximum 158.3 passer rating.
If Trubisky ever gets injured this year and misses some time, the Bears might want to turn to O'Donnell over Glennon. Again, I'm kidding -- kinda.
4. Bears' and Vikings' defenses dominate
The Vikings' defense gave up plenty of yards in the first half, but kept the Bears' offense out of the end zone. For that, they can thank the Bears getting in their own damn way and timely defensive stops. Nothing was more timely than Everson Griffen's strip sack of Trubisky at the end of the first half, which set up a Vikings' field goal -- their only points of the first half -- to give them a 3-2 lead.
On third down, the Bears were 3 for 12. The Vikings forced two turnovers. They held the Bears' dynamic running back duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to 89 yards on 25 carries (3.56 YPA). The Vikings' defense is the reason why they won. They're the reason why the Vikings are a legit player in the NFC playoff picture. And they're the reason why the Vikings can survive without their starting quarterback.
The Bears aren't a contender, but their defense deserves better. Don't blame the Bears' defense for the loss. They scored the Bears' only points in the first half, racked up four sacks, and held the Vikings to 4.5 yards per play. Six of the Vikings' points came after turnovers deep in Bears' territory. They did their job, limiting the Vikings to field goals. The only criticism is that the Bears dropped a couple chances to snag interceptions. They still haven't picked off a pass this season.
But again: progress. That's what this Bears season is about.
5. John Fox coaching blunder
John Fox managed to outdo Andy Reid. But not in a good way.
The Bears' second series of the game stalled because Fox is even worse than Reid at managing the clock. Facing a fourth-and-2 near the Vikings' 40-yard line, Fox called a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Bears' punt team ran onto the field. Then Fox called them back to the sideline, rushing Trubisky and the offense onto the field. They didn't have enough time to get a play off and took a delay of game penalty before punting the ball back to the Vikings.
Even worse, the Bears appeared to have an uncovered receiver on the play right before the play clock expired.
At some point -- now -- it's worth wondering if Fox is the guy the Bears want overseeing Trubisky's development. Spoiler alert: They don't.
6. "The Last Jedi" trailer debuts
Trubisky wasn't the only one who made a highly hyped debut.(hence all the "Star Wars" references in the beginning) at halftime.
7. What's next?
The Vikings' next game will have huge implications in the NFC North. That's because the Vikings will return home to take on the 4-1 Packers on Sunday. If the Vikings win, they'll be tied with the Packers in the division.
The Bears, on the other hand, will head to Baltimore to play the 3-2 Ravens on Sunday. The Ravens' offense isn't any good, but their defense is. So Trubisky will face another tough defensive test on Sunday.