The Minnesota Vikings are back to .500 on the season as they advanced to 7-7 with a 17-9 win over the Chicago Bears on "Monday Night Football." The victory moved the Vikings into the final wild card spot in the NFC ahead of the Saints.
Minnesota was able to get out to an early lead as they drove 54 yards down the field on their second possession of the evening, which culminated in a 12-yard touchdown reception by Justin Jefferson. That score was all the Vikings would really need as they held Chicago to a field goal until the final play of the game. That said, Minnesota was able to sprinkle some scoring throughout the contest, including a a 7-yard touchdown to Ihmir Smith-Marsette on its first possession of the second half.
While Chicago's depleted secondary was a main storyline heading into this game, the unit largely made up of backups was able to hold its own against the Vikings and the pass rush was able to keep Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota offense in check. The offense for the Bears was the main Achilles heel in the loss, particularly once it got into the red area. In the loss, Chicago had two fumbles and two turnovers on downs in the red zone.
Cousins finished with just 87 yards passing as he completed 50% o his passes for two touchdowns and an interception. Dalvin Cook rushed for 89 yards. On the other side, Justin Fields threw for 285 yards and a garbage-time touchdown on the game's final play. He also rushed seven times for 35 yards on the ground.
For more on how this game unfolded, check out our takeaways below.
Why the Vikings won
Offensively, it was a quiet night for the Vikings, despite being able to find the end zone twice. Cousins had just 87 yards passing (fewest of his career as a starter) and even Cook was held in check on the ground. They largely played mistake-free football and simply allowed the Bears to repeatedly make self-inflicting wounds that would put them behind the eight ball.
Meanwhile, the defense was able to come up big throughout this contest, especially in the red zone. The Vikings defense held the Bears to one touchdown in five total red-zone trips, while also creating multiple turnovers in that key area of the field. That lone score they allowed was pretty inconsequential as it came right at the end of regulation on a last ditch attempt by Fields. For the large majority of the game, they were extremely stout once the Bears were threatening to score. They were also strong on third down, stopping Chicago on 10 of their 12 opportunities.
Of course, this wasn't a perfect showing by the Viking by any means as they probably should have blown this game open, but it was a solid enough effort to beat this current version of the Bears.
Why the Bears lost
Chicago played like a 4-10 team for the bulk of Monday's matchup. They began the game offensively with a three-and-out and two fumbles (one coming at the Vikings 10-yard line). Over that same stretch, Minnesota would build up a 10-0 lead, which was essentially all it would need to win the game.
All in all, there were too many instances where the Bears were beating themselves. They had nine penalties that sent them 91 yards in the wrong direction. However, their main issues came in the red zone. They couldn't get the football across the goal line when it counted and it kept them chasing the Vikings throughout the evening. That proved to be the fatal flaw for Chicago as it otherwise outgained the Vikings in total yards of offense 370-193.
Defensively, it was an impressive showing for the Bears as they were down multiple players, particularly in the secondary due to COVID. Even with key starters sidelined and reserves starting in their place, the defense kept them in this game throughout. They prevented all of the major Vikings playmakers from breaking the game open, but the offense couldn't grab the baton to keep the momentum rolling in their favor.
Special teams was also an issue for the Bears at times as they had a field goal attempt blocked and had a muffed punt in the loss.
Momentum started to tick in the direction of the Bears after they were able to force the Vikings into a three-and-out with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Minnesota was forced to punt it away deep in its own territory and Chicago's Damien Williams was able to get to punter Jordan Berry and get a hand on the football. The ball traveled just 17 yards thanks to the block, giving the Bears possession as the Vikings' 30-yard line and down 14.
That felt like the break Matt Nagy's team needed, but the Bears were unable to capitalize on the fantastic field position and gave the ball right back to Minnesota just four plays later after a turnover on downs.
That failed fourth-down attempt was another prime example of the Bears getting in their own way. Chicago seemed to have some personnel issues on the attempt (David Montgomery was not on the field) as they were scrambling to line up and ultimately had no one in the backfield for the fourth-and-1 attempt. That's when Fields dropped back, rolled out right, and was eventually sacked in what was just a poorly executed sequence from start to finish.
That was the golden opportunity for the Bears to bring themselves back within a touchdown, but they let it slip through their fingers.
Play of the game
In full transparency, no play from this game will be making any top 10 lists anytime soon. That said, Cousins' touchdown pass to Jefferson was a solid throw in the back left corner of the end zone. Jefferson was able to get a step on his defender after faking going over the middle and created enough separation for Cousins to drop it in without much risk.
In this game, Jefferson did pass Randy Moss (2,726) for the second-most receiving yards by a player in his first two seasons in the Super Bowl era. Jefferson (2,735) only needs 21 more yards this season to pass Odell Beckham Jr. (2,755) for the top spot on this list.
From here, the Vikings will head back to Minnesota and await the Rams for a Week 16 matchup on Sunday. As for the Bears, they'll head on the road to face the Seahawks. Both Seattle and L.A. will be working on a particularly short week as those two NFC clubs are set to face one another on Tuesday due to a COVID-19 rescheduling.