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What we learned: Howard powers Bears past Vikings

Rookie power back Jordan Howard exploded for 202 yards and a touchdown, leading the Chicago Bears to a 20-10 upset victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8. Here's what we learned on Monday night:

  1. Fantasy footballers have to be pulling their hair out trying to decipher Chicago's backfield. Outplayed by Ka'Deem Carey the previous two weeks, a glacial Jordan Howard appeared to have lost his stranglehold on feature-back duties. That scenario quickly shifted when Howard broke an arm tackle and galloped 69 yards on the Bears' third play of the night. The rookie added 34 yards on a shovel pass in the second quarter, accounting for roughly half of his production on two big plays. Along the way, Howard became the youngest player in the storied history of the Bears franchise to reach 200 yards from scrimmage. He should be locked in as an offensive focal point after the bye at Tampa Bay in Week 10.

"I've been very impressed with him from the onset," coach John Fox said. "He stepped up when we needed him.

  1. The Bears had surrendered a touchdown in 66 consecutive games entering Monday night. Prior to Sam Bradford's late-game, fourth-down desperation heave to Stefon Diggs, that streak was in serious jeopardy at the hands of a dysfunctional, injury-ravaged Vikings offense. The historically inept ground attack leaves Bradford in predictable passing situations behind a patchwork offensive line that simply can't protect him.

Over the past two weeks, the Eagles and Bears have combined for 26 QB hits, 11 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 14 passes defensed. At this point, it's fair to wonder if Bradford will survive intact before the Vikings find a fix for overmatched tackles Jake Long and T.J. Clemmings. It's a shame general manager Rick Spielman lacks the salary-cap space to pull off a major trade ahead of Tuesday afternoon's deadline.

  1. Handed a reprieve by Brian Hoyer's broken arm, Jay Cutler crawled out of Fox's doghouse to author the most impressive quarterback performance versus the Vikings' top-ranked defense this season. Cutler managed the game well, side-stepping pressure to hit Jordan Howard, Alshon Jeffery and Zach Miller for big plays. While his 252 yards and 100.5 passer rating certainly aren't astonishing, those numbers stands in stark contrast to the composite 63.7 rating of Minnesota's first six opponents. Cutler's performance reportedly was enough for Fox to hand him the game ball.
  1. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks dominated the interior of Minnesota's offensive line while Pernell McPhee and first-round rookie Leonard Floyd wreaked havoc off the edge. Chicago's overhauled front seven is coming together nicely now that McPhee is off the physically unable to perform list to join an effective rotation with Floyd and veteran Willie Young, complementing the inside linebacker duo of Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. If general manager Ryan Pace manages to upgrade the secondary in 2017, the Bears' defense will be downright frisky.
  1. Did the Vikings' stellar defense buckle under the weight of the league's 31st-ranked offense? With the exception of nose tackle Linval Joseph and defensive end Everson Griffen, the defense suffered a letdown, allowing season highs in total yards (403) and rushing yard (158) against a middling Bears' attack that has managed to top 20 points just once all season. This is not a team built to play from behind.

Coach Mike Zimmer called out his "soft" offensive line after last week's "embarrassing" loss at Philadelphia. Might he have similar choice words for his defense when he reviews this week's game film?

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