The Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears played a game on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium. Although you may not have noticed. With nothing on the line for either team, the Vikings rested most of their starters like it was the fifth preseason game of the year and the game kind of played out like one, as well. The Bears beat the Vikings 21-19 bringing a sobering end to the regular season.
On the first play from scrimmage, Vikings starting running back went off tackle left for 59 yards (the offensive line opened a huge hole, which we hadn’t seen much of last week), but then lost the ball on the next play when starting quarterback Sean Mannion tossed a pitch to his hip. The Bears took advantage of the mishap and jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead.
On the next series, the Vikings were moving again, but Boone did not look a check down into his hands and the Bears intercepted at the Minnesota 41 yard line. It led to another field goal, and which made it difficult to continue watching this game where the Vikings engagement appeared minimal at best.
The loss puts the Vikings at 10-6 on the season and in a solid second place in the NFC North Division ahead of the 8-8 Bears. At press time, the sixth seeded Vikings were awaiting the outcome of games to determine their playoff fate, which will be on the road. If the San Francisco 49ers win beat the Seahawks in Seattle tonight, the Vikings will open the playoffs at New Orleans. If Seahawks win, they go to Seattle. If tonight’s game ends in a tie, the Vikings head at San Francisco.
Mike Boone got the start and made the most of it (when he wasn’t making the least of it). Boone ran hard, showed great vision and was the most exciting thing going for the Purple, even if some of that excitement was more of the angering type. Boone was involved in two turnovers in the first half and had the ball in his hands when the Vikings suffered a safety, but he also had two big runs (59 and 41 yards) to set up Vikings field goals and rushed for 126 yards in before intermission. On the game he rushed 17 times for 148 yards and a one-yard touchdown—despite the mishaps, he is a very good deep backup at running back.
Dan Bailey handled the rest of the scoring for Minnesota, and he was money (four of four in field goals and an extra point), as he has been all season, (missing just two field goals and four PATs all season). The Vikings have certainly stabilized their kicking game this season with the addition of a new punter/holder and long snapper. Hopefully, it will continue and the 31-year old Bailey isn’t ready to hang it up. Zimmer needs some to have this unit settled across an offseason for once.
Ifeadi Odenigbo, who had a scoop six a couple weeks ago, nearly had another against the Bears. His strip sack, fumble recovery and score this week was called back for being down by contact. It did set up the Vikings go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, however. After his first scoop and score against the LA Chargers, Odenigbo reported on twitter that he was hearing from a lot of people he hadn’t heard from for a while (including a lot of girls he knew in college). Too bad we couldn’t hear about who called after a second one.
(Not) Worth Defending
Sean Mannion played like a backup quarterback on Sunday, but not one who gives the fan base a warm fuzzy about the possibility of the Vikings starter going down. Reps are important to an NFL player, but Mannion simply didn’t look polished in his finesse throws and accurate in his strong arm throws. On the gam he was 12 of 21 for 126 and two picks (one of them a Hail Mary) for 35.1 passer rating in his first start as a Viking. Bottom line is the Vikings need to look at backup quarterbacks in free agency and future ones in the draft this offseason.
The Vikings run defense in the first drive of the second half was abysmal. They allowed David Montgomery to rush the ball six times for 57 yards on the drive, and he scored from 14 yards out for the first touchdown of the game. The Vikings first contacted him at the 11-yard line, and Montgomery and some Bears linemen pushed the Vikings defense the rest of the way for the score. Not a good look.
One starter who did start was defensive end Danielle Hunter. According to the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson, “Hunter played the first snap today before leaving. By being active today, he gets $31,250 bonus (which is per game). But he’s at 14 1/2 sacks. If he doesn’t come back in and get 15, he wouldn’t get $500,000 for reaching 15 sacks in a season.” Hunter didn’t return. That’s a tough blow for one of the brightest spots from this season.
Should be Ending
Long game times. In this one,the third quarter was over 2 p.m. CT, which means two hours since the opening kick. That is quick, thanks to a lot of running plays and not much concern for the clock. We’re not all that bothered by a long game, particularly if there is a lot of drama in it, but for a game like this it was a good thing. (For the record, things slowed down in the fourth as the game didn’t end until 3 p.m. after all.)
The starters didn’t play—that includes Dalvin Cook (still mending), of course, and Kirk Cousins, who lobbied hard to get on the field after last week’s debacle. His standing on the sidelines in his helmet didn’t sway head coach Mike Zimmer’s mind, so Mannion got the start and the finish. Wait for next week, Kirk.
Having to sit through games like this. Let the playoffs begin.