5 things to watch during the Bears matchup with the Vikings

Sean Hammond
Pro Football Weekly
Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy watches from the sideline during a game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn.

Since becoming Chicago Bears coach, Matt Nagy has never lost to the Minnesota Vikings. He will put that perfect record to the test on Monday Night Football at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The Bears (5-4) are riding a three-game losing skid, while the Vikings (3-5) have won two consecutive to revive their season.

Here are five storylines to watch in the Monday night matchup:

What does a change in play caller look like?

Nagy announced Friday that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will be calling plays on Monday. It was the ultimate admission that the offense is in a rut right now.

So what will this offense look like with a different coach at the helm? It's still the same offense and it's still the same personnel, but sometimes change can be good. Can the Bears find a rhythm with Lazor running the show, or is this a last-ditch effort for a doomed offense?

Monday will present some clues.

It’s worth watching what Nagy coaches like after losing a key part of his identity. How involved is he with defense and special teams? What are his conversations like with the offense when it comes off the field? It will be fascinating to watch.

Can the Bears fix their O-line problems?

The Bears offensive line – down to two of its regular starters last week – was a disaster against the Titans. It’s looking likely that things could be in a similarly dire situation again this week.

The key difference is now the offense as a whole and the offensive line have had ample time to prepare. How much can a bad offensive line improve with a full week of practice? Probably not a lot. But enough to make a difference? Maybe.

Dalvin Cook vs. Bears defensive front

For the second consecutive week, the Bears take on the NFL’s leading rusher. Last week it was Tennessee’s Derrick Henry. Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook overtook Henry for the rushing lead last week and is coming in with a hot hand.

The Bears slowed Henry to 68 rushing yards on 21 carries Sunday. Anything close to that against Cook would be a major victory.

“Whenever you get to play great running backs, you always look forward to it as a defensive lineman,” Bears tackle Bilal Nichols said. “When you see them going off against other teams and going off against other players, we want to show that that's not going to happen against [us].”

Can the Bears defense give Kirk Cousins nightmares?

The last time Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins came to Soldier Field, the Bears sacked him six times. In five career games against the Bears, Cousins has been sacked 15 times, thrown three interceptions and fumbled twice. In his three starts against the Bears since he joined the Vikings in 2018, Cousins has never beaten the Bears and he has been sacked 12 times in those three games.

Khalil Mack always seems to play his best when the Bears are playing in prime time, and the Bears need that to be the case again Monday.

Who’s at running back for the Bears?

Bears running back David Montgomery is in concussion protocol this week after taking a hit to the helmet Sunday. He was also favoring one shoulder as he walked off the field Sunday in Tennessee, although the Bears have made no mention of a shoulder injury.

If Montgomery can’t play Monday, the attention turns to backup running backs Ryan Nall and Cordarrelle Patterson, as well as practice squad running back Lamar Miller. Montgomery has been an integral part of the Bears offense in the run and pass, especially since running back Tarik Cohen went down with an ACL tear in Week 3.

It’s likely the Bears won’t announce any update on Montgomery until the inactive report comes out an hour and a half before kickoff. So it will be wait-and-see mode until then.