The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS–While taking the NFC North champion Chicago Bears to the playoffs for the first time in eight years, head coach Matt Nagy has displayed an energetic personality and aggressive mindset throughout his debut.
Even with their post-season position all but set, the Bears refused to let up. And they kept the rival Minnesota Vikings out of the playoffs in the process.
Fuelled by that relentless defence and 109 rushing yards and two touchdowns by Jordan Howard, the Bears beat the Vikings 24-10 yesterday for their first sweep of Minnesota since 2011.
“I love winning. I think it’s fun to win,” Nagy said. “So when you win, whoever it is, who cares?
“Let’s just play ball.”
With the 24-0 win by Philadelphia at Washington, the Vikings (8-7-1) watched the Eagles claim the NFC’s last wild-card spot and went home wondering what happened to their offence after signing Kirk Cousins for $84 million guaranteed to be the franchise quarterback.
Tarik Cohen scored the last touchdown on a short run with 7:46 left to cap a 16-play drive for the Bears (12-4), who posted their best regular-season record since the 2006 team finished 13-3 and reached the Super Bowl.
They’ve won nine of their last 10 games and now will host the Eagles in the first round this coming Sunday instead of the Vikings.
“We’re growing. We’re getting stronger by the week,” Nagy said.
The Bears began the afternoon with an opportunity, albeit unlikely, to get a first-round bye with a victory and a loss by the L.A. Rams, who wound up beating San Francisco 48-32.
Nagy was unmoved by the big early lead taken by the Rams, though, keeping quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the entire game and only holding out the starters who already previously were injured.
“Every time we step on the field we want to win,” Trubisky said. “I think it just shows the maturity of this team that we weren’t looking ahead.
“We weren’t thinking about sitting out,” he noted. “We just do exactly what’s asked.”
After spending the majority of the last two decades trying to keep up with Green Bay, the Vikings have overtaken the Packers only to have their other primary rival, the Bears, surge to the top of the division.
Most problematic since coach Mike Zimmer took over has been the struggle to move and protect the ball against Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, Kyle Fuller, and the rest of that Chicago defence, which established a franchise record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a season.
Done in by three-and-outs on their first four possessions, the Vikings finished with only 164 total yards.
“The way we played, we don’t deserve to be in the playoffs,” Anthony Barr said.