Cook carries Vikings into Chicago for NFC North showdown

Kirk Cousins expects “big-boy football” when the Minnesota Vikings visit the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon.

FILE PHOTO: Sep 22, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs the ball against the Oakland Raiders during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Both teams are 2-1 and looking to keep up with a red-hot NFC North division that features all four teams above .500.

“It’s very important,” Cousins told reporters. “We understand that, but this is big boy football. Chicago knows that, too. We’re not going to have any extra motivation that Chicago doesn’t have. It’s going to go in there with two heavyweights, and one’s going to emerge with a victory.”

In recent years, that team has been the Bears -- at least when the game takes place at Soldier Field. The Vikings have lost 15 of their last 18 games in Chicago, including a 25-20 defeat a season ago.

Chicago will be on short rest after playing Monday night and posting a win over the Washington Redskins. The Bears relied on their typically dominant defense, which included a pick-six by veteran safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, as well as a rejuvenated offense that featured three touchdown passes from Mitchell Trubisky to Taylor Gabriel.

Trubisky said he and his teammates still needed to clean up some mistakes before they face the Vikings.

“I don’t know if I would call it a breakthrough yet,” Trubisky told reporters. “We’ve got to keep getting better. Keep growing. Definitely room for improvement, and definitely in the second half, especially on my part. I think if we just stick to the process we’re going to be all right.

“I think we’re still improving as an offense and it’s definitely awesome when you have your guys getting open. That’s how you design it, that’s why you practice, that’s why you rep plays in the game. We have the playmakers to where if we get man to man, we’re going to let them separate, do it on their own, and when we’re (against) zone, they’ve got to see that just like I’m seeing it and find the open area. I think we’re still growing and evolving as an offense.”

More no-huddle plays could be in store for the Bears after they found success with that style in Week 3.

“(No huddle) just helps create a rhythm,” Trubisky said. “It helps us see the defense. It makes them get lined up faster so they don’t know if we’re checking or if we are running and going right away, so it kind of helps me see what they’re doing. It makes them get lined up and kind of show their hand sometimes.”

Cousins emphasized the need to play smart against the Bears defense. He has a dynamic playmaker in running back Dalvin Cook, the NFL’s leading rusher, and a pair of dangerous receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, but he does not want to take unnecessary chances against a defensive unit led by Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd.

If pressure arrives in the pocket, Cousins will not try to force a risky play.

“For me, I think it’s just two hands on the football,” Cousins said. “Not only two hands, but really if you feel like you’re in a crowd, no longer remain a passer and start to play for the sack. Sometimes a sack is OK if you feel like you’re going down, and when you try to fight to get out of a sack, that’s often times when the fumbles can happen.”

Minnesota is averaging 26 points per game and giving up 15.7 points per game.

On the opposite sideline, Chicago is averaging 16.7 points per game and allowing 13 points per game.

--Field Level Media