A week after an impressive performance against the Packers’ Devante Adams, Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson was preparing for an equally tough matchup with Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson on Monday Night Football in Week 15 when he was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list one day before the game.
“I missed it a lot, considering the preparation I put in that week — watching film, practicing, seeing certain things,” Johnson said. “Just having that taken away from me at the last minute was pretty hurtful, considering that I wanted that matchup and that was something I was looking forward to.”
Jefferson, an All-Pro as a rookie last season, has been even better this season — 103 receptions for 1,509 yards and nine touchdowns this season. With Johnson and the Bears entire secondary on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Jefferson was held to four receptions for 47 yards, though he scored on a 12-yard touchdown pass in the Vikings’ 17-9 victory at Soldier Field.
Johnson has built on his impressive rookie season as well in 2021, earning the role of shadowing the opponent’s top receiver. But while Jefferson is a challenge, it’s not a defining one to him.
“I don’t look at it as a measuring stick,” he said. “I feel like we’re all good players, so just really being able to do my job, I’m not measuring myself against anybody but myself.”
The Bears have won two consecutive games since losing to the Vikings — scoring 25 or more point in back-to-back games for the first time this season in victories over the Seahawks in Seattle (25-24) with Nick Foles at quarterback and the Giants at Soldier Field (29-3) with Andy Dalton.
The Vikings have lost consecutive games since beating the Bears to fall out of playoff-berth contention — allowing 30 or more points against the Rams at home (30-23) and the Packers at Lambeau Field (37-10).
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Bears linebacker Caleb Johnson, an undrafted rookie out of Houston Baptist, has emerged as a solid special-teams player, with seven tackles — tied for second on the team.
“He’s gotten better every week,” special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. “The thing I really like about him: You’re always hearing about that rookie wall — you never saw that. You saw a guy — ‘Hey, what can I do to get better this week?’ He’s still doing that. I’m gald he’s on our team.”
Neither team has anything to play for in the 17th game of a long season. The Bears have had a dreadful season with multiple quarterback changes and an imminent coaching change, but are determined to finish strong.
It will be interesting to see how the Vikings respond after being eliminated from playoff contention. Kirk Cousins & Co. could let it all hang out and put on a show — or pack it in and look toward the offseason.