The Vikings made enough plays late to win another close game. The Chicago Bears kept it closer than anyone would have thought possible, but the better team came out victorious. The Vikings have plenty of areas for improvement, but they are off to a hot start record-wise at 4-1.
Quick Start Again
My colleague Eli noted that the Vikings got off to a quick start, and this is now the second straight game where the Vikings jumped out to an early lead. This start, however, was much more impressive than the one in London. The Vikings’ first three drives ended in touchdowns, and each drive also lasted over six minutes.
This is the type of ball control this team is capable of, and a trend I hope to see continue week in and week out. The ability to set the tone offensively, right from the opening kick-off, can be a strength for this team if they can keep it up. The Bears were only able to muster one field goal in their first three drives, and all signs were pointing to a blowout in favor of the purple.
The turning point for me happened late in the second quarter. Up until the last two minutes of the first half, the Bears offense had looked inept, and the Vikings simply needed to punt one deep and play one more solid series on defense. However, a rare shanked punt by Vikings’ rookie punter Ryan Wright gave the Bears excellent field position for them to start their two-minute drill.
On the ensuing play, Bears’ WR Darnell Mooney made an absurd, one-handed catch that went for 39 yards.
The Bears would punch it in on a nine-yard run by David Montgomery, and Chicago got a much-needed boost of confidence. The Vikings would add to this confidence after Greg Joseph missed a 53-yard field goal at the end of the first half, and the Bears had all of the momentum heading into the locker room. This was a key turning point as well since the Bears would receive the second-half kick.
Comeback Officially Mounted
I do believe in momentum in sports, and that’s why I place so much on the first-half wonder catch by Mooney. Justin Fields and the Bears’ offense came out and scored again on their opening drive of the second half. A Velus Jones sighting on a nine-yard reception brought the Bears within five after their two-point conversion attempt failed.
Then, Vikings fans everywhere started to sweat. The Vikings would see Greg Joseph’s 51-yard FG attempt block on their next drive, and the Bears would get three themselves, bringing the score to 21-19. The Vikings had a chance to regain momentum on their next drive, as it started with a Dalvin Cook first down, and then a defensive holding penalty after a few more positive plays. Then, Kirk Cousins was picked off by Bears CB Kindle Vildor on a pass intended for Adam Thielen. The Bears would take the lead with a FG on the next drive, and I would bet the majority of Vikings fans were fearing the worst.
Good Teams Right The Ship
But just when it looked like we were going to let a bad team steal the game, the Vikings’ offense responded in a big way. Kirk Cousins rebounded from his terrible turnover by leading the Vikings on a 17-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ate up seven minutes of the fourth-quarter clock.
It was a methodical drive where Kevin O’Connell’s play-calling acumen was on full display. Cousins snuck in on a one-yard keeper to give the Vikings a 27-21 lead, and then he hit Justin Jefferson for the two-point conversion. For more analysis on this drive, and on the game itself, make sure to check out Episode 7 of The Daily Skol podcast. This is exactly what contending teams do. They stop the bleeding, right the ship, and close out the game. Cameron Dantzler’s strip of Ihmir Smith-Marsette thwarted the Bears’ last-chance drive, and it sealed the win for the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings.
Noteworthy Contributors On Offense
Justin Jefferson: It’s almost criminal I’ve waited this long to mention the best WR in the game currently. Jefferson caught 12 of 13 targets for 154 yards and added a 23-yard completion to his passing resume. While most of his production was in the first half (weird, huh? That was when we were scoring in bunches), he caught the clutch two-point conversion attempt to help seal the game. He was, as he is always, great after the catch as well; and to put it simply, the Vikings need to pay him whatever it takes to keep him here for his career.
Kirk Cousins: His interception was a bad pass. He waited too long to try and force it to Thielen, and it was obvious he had no idea that Vildor was in the area. It was a terrible time to give the ball away, but he redeemed himself. In addition to starting the game 17 for 17, Cousins also orchestrated the game-winning drive with a rushing touchdown of his own and a smart completion for the two-point conversion.
Dalvin Cook: Cook ran 18 times for 94 yards and two scores. He looked electric, patient, and productive all afternoon. Our offense is so good when he’s going strong as a complement to our passing attack, so let’s make this a consistent thing, shall we?
The offensive line: This Vikings offensive line is not perfect, but to me, they have been consistently above average. Against the Bears, they created great holes for Dalvin to run through, and in pass protection, they only gave up one sack. Additionally, Kirk was only hit three times. This is a recipe for sustained success all season if they keep it up.
Jalen Reagor: Okay, this is a stretch, haha, he was not necessarily noteworthy. But he did score a touchdown, and since I kind of predicted it, I’m going to take half of a victory lap. Not a full one, because he was not a consistent factor, but the Vikings designed that touchdown play for him, and he made a ridiculous juke to get into the endzone. Could this be the start of something more? We can only hope.
Noteworthy Contributors On Defense
Cameron Dantzler: He continues to impress me with his tenacity in the secondary. He looks the part of a top-tier corner in this league, and that game-winning strip shows me that he is ready to be a clutch gamer as well. He added eight tackles throughout the game, and I think he will be a season-long contributor to Vikings wins.
The defensive line: This is a cop-out, I know, but I love the fact that we held David Montgomery to only 20 rushing yards. Justin Fields made them look silly at times while scrambling, but the league’s third-best rushing attack was held to just 78 total yards on the ground. This was a big win for the Vikings’ defensive line, in addition to seeing Danielle Hunter record a sack.
D.J. Wonnum: He doesn’t exactly light up the stat sheet, but I wanted to give him a quick shout-out. I always notice when he’s playing because he has that motor that never stops. He had a great rush that gave him half a sack and credit for a Fields’ fumble. He is not going to lead the team in any category, but we will appreciate his contributions at seasons-end.
Overall Grade: B-
People are going to get annoyed to keep seeing “A win is a win,” but in this league, you have to appreciate any W you can get. On the positive side of the grade, the Vikings dominated the first half of play, and then closed the game out masterfully at the end, which helps them achieve a slightly above-average mark.
But we can’t ignore how the Bears were allowed to come back and hang around. The lack of production from the Bears’ offense doesn’t make it seem possible that they were able to score 22 points. And yet, they had a chance at the end. I wouldn’t be upset if it were against a better team, but we have to acknowledge our poor play at the end of the second quarter and throughout the third. However, as long as the Vikings players and coaches are reflective on their faults, this team should continue to win games.
Speaking of winning games, next week’s tilt in Miami should result in another W for the Vikings. Miami is hurting right now at the most important position, and the Vikings need to assert themselves early again. I am going to be worried about Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, but I still think we’re the better team.
I think the key again will be keeping our offense on the field and in control of the momentum. The Vikings out-possessed the Bears by 13+ minutes, and this will be a great method in keeping McDaniel’s playmakers off of the field.
Stay up-to-speed with plenty more Vikings’ news and analysis here at thedailyskol.com. Then, head on over to Twitter to chat with me, @Jlime8, or the whole team, @DailySkol. Rest up for Sunday, folks, SKOL!