(CBS Chicago/CBS Local) — The Minnesota Vikings (2-1) and Chicago Bears (2-1) quarterbacks finally seemed to find their footing in Week 3. Kirk Cousins went 15-21 with a touchdown pass, as the run-first Vikings laid 34 points on the Oakland Raiders. Mitch Trubisky went 25-31 with three touchdown passes, as the Bears took advantage of a forgiving Washington Redskins defense.
The rivals will square off this Sunday, both looking to keep pace in a surprisingly competitive NFC North. According to NFL On CBS analyst Trent Green, “It’s going to be one of those physical, NFC North type of games, your typical Minnesota-Chicago old school game.”
Dalvin Cook has been the engine propelling the Vikings offense so far this season. And his stats — 57 attempts, 375 yards, four TDs — are absurd. Cook has three 100-yard games and is averaging a whopping 6.6 yards per carry. “They want to be a run team first,” as Green sees it. “Dalvin Cook is having a tremendous season.”
While the Vikings rely on the run, they would certainly prefer Cousins to be a more productive passer. So far this season, the passing game has out-gained the running game only once. That happened in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers, when he threw for 230 yards, going an inefficient 14-32. In Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, he didn’t even crack 100 yards.
Cousins will need to improve on those passing numbers against a Bears defense that can shut down the run. It hasn’t allowed any of its opponents to rush for 100 yards; the Redskins totaled just 69 rushing yards on Monday night. Cousins will need to contend with the menacing Khalil Mack, who sacked Case Keenum twice and forced two fumbles. The Bears did let Keenum throw for 332 yards, though most of it came with the Skins playing catch-up.
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is dogged by some of the same questions as Cousins. Will he develop into a better than serviceable NFL quarterback? Can he lead a team that relies heavily on a strong defense?
After a promising 2018 campaign, he’s had a rough season so far, failing to complete a touchdown pass before Week 3. And let’s not forget that all of his three TD passes came in the second quarter of Monday night’s game; the Bears’ offense stumbled through the entire second half.
“Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy [are] trying to get that offense going,” says Green. “A year ago, they were rolling really well. For whatever reason, it’s slowed down some here at the start of the season. But there’s plenty of time to get that made up.”
So what’s the answer for Trubisky and the Bears?
“For a young quarterback, it’s important to have balance, especially when you look at what they did on the ground a year ago,” as Green, a former NFL quarterback, sees it. “There are some different pieces in place. [Jordan] Howard has moved on, he’s not in Chicago anymore. I don’t think he’s in a position right now, from an offensive standpoint, to where you just want to say ‘okay, Mitch Trubisky, you’re going to throw 50 times a game.’”
Both the Bears and Vikings have already played the Packers. Trubisky went 26-45 for 228 yards in Week 1, but the Bears put up just three points. He was also sacked five times. That’s a troubling stat, especially when considering that Trubisky is more of a short passer. Against the same Packers defense in Week 2, Cousins, who gets the ball downfield a little more, was 14-32 for 230 yards, but with only one sack. The Vikings offense also managed 16 points.
Cousins and Trubisky face tough tasks in Week 4. And both will rely heavily on their run games in the face of these daunting defenses. In Green’s estimation, “this is a very important game, when you consider the Lions and Packers are both undefeated, and the Vikings and Bears each have one loss. Very important early-season matchup for both of them.”
The Vikings play the Bears at 3:25 p.m. CT on CBS.