BY MADDIE TOPLIFF
The Minnesota Vikings have been on Chicago’s heels all season, ready to take the top spot in the NFC North from under the Windy City inhabitants. Both teams have had a pretty impactful passing game, so let’s see what came to pass this past weekend during Carrie Underwood’s favorite time of the week, Sunday Night Football.
The Vikings (5-3-1) have won five games to Chicago’s (6-3) six this season, and a win against the Bears would technically move them into first place in the NFC North, notching the fatal fourth loss into the Bears’ record. Of course there’s still a lot of the season left, but I’m not sure if the Bears would be able to handle the blow to their morale since they’ve been sitting pretty comfortably in first.
The biggest weapon the Vikings have is what they’ve been able to do in the air, averaging over 40 more passing yards a game than the Bears. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has a QB rating of 102.2, having connected over 250 passes this season. Chicago also doesn’t have as great of pass coverage as they do on the run.
Conversely, the Bears have the advantage on the run, currently 12th in the league with Vikings trailing at 28th in rushing yards per game. Bears QB Mitch Trubisky has been able to largely contribute to this effort as a mobile QB, which has the potential to catch the Vikings off-guard.
Trubisky is holding his own. Last week, he was voted Offensive Player of the Week in the NFC, with Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger holding the week-long title in the AFC. Trubisky is also on his way to breaking the Bears record of most consecutive starts; 22 is the number to beat, and he’s started right around 16. All Trubisky has to do is not pass into danger. Shouldn’t be too difficult since Chicago is supposed to wear their safety orange throwback jerseys.
The Bears kicked off to the Vikings, and away we went.
Despite a promising pass in the opening drive, the Vikings switched to running and were forced to punt after three downs. Yawn. Chicago’s turn. After a nearly seven-minute long first series, Chicago kicker Cody Parkey, who was on the struggle bus last week missing multiple extra points (XPs) and, put a clean 3 points away. Still yawn, but a winning yawn!
Then it got a bit scary. Bears linebacker and treasured defensive leader Khalil Mack forced a Minnesota fumble at the end of the first quarter, but in the next series, Trubisky wanted to prove he could turn the ball over too and threw it long into triple coverage for an interception. C’mon, man.
Finally, some serious lead points. Trubisky was able to connect to WR Anthony Miller for a nice 18-yard touchdown. What was even nicer was the two-point conversion that followed. Was that divisional matchup paranoia or Chicago kicker paranoia? The world–including Parkey–may never know. Speaking of Parkey, he stepped back and kicked a 41-yard FG to send the Vikings and Bears into the locker rooms to the tune of 14 Chicago points to 0 for Minnesota.
All was calm in the 3rd quarter until Trubisky threw another pick, this time for 33 yards, intended for Bears WR Allen Robinson III. Minnesota was able to squeeze in a field goal before the quarter ended, taking the score to 14-3 Bears. Could have been worse.
Fourth quarter. Time to chew on the fingernails because I just know a two-score lead is not enough in Chicago.
Bears running back Tarik Cohen, an offensive weapon if I’ve ever seen one, dropped the ball–literally–during the quarter’s opening drive. And yes, the Vikings recovered this one, but only for a resulting field goal.
The Bears can never be out-defensed, so I was incredibly pleased when Chicago firecracker safety Eddie Jackson picked off Kirk Cousins for not just an interception, but a beautiful play-of-the-game worthy pick six. The 6 points turned into 8 when Trubisky connected with Bears tight end Adam Shaheen. The Bears were 2/2 on 2-point conversions Sunday.
Inside five minutes is more often than not where the Bears like to throw their lead. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins found the end zone inside the fifth minute, but was unable to connect for a 2-point conversion until the Bears committed a penalty and gave them a successful second chance. 22-14, Chicago. One Minnesota touchdown and another successful 2-point conversion would take us into dreaded overtime. Can I get a no, thank you?
Cody Parkey must’ve felt the result of the game breathing down his back because he kicked a very clutch 48-yard FG in below-freezing temperatures to take the lead to 25-14.
Minnesota got the ball back for the last time of the game with almost three minutes left. That’s a lot of time in football, especially when factoring in the two-minute warning. We love free timeouts, but not when our opponent has the ball.
After a pass-heavy last series, Vikings QB Cousins connected with WR Stefon Diggs for a 5-yard touchdown and wound up…to throw a failed 2-point conversion. That blows; we can’t all be Trubisky. 25-20, Bears.
Nothing in the game of football makes me as stressed as an onside kick. I knew Minnesota was going to do it because the announcers said so, but I was still hoping they wouldn’t.
They did do an onside kick, but they chipped it right into the arms of Bears RB Benny Cunningham for the game. Bears win! In case all of my Minnesota friends need to read it again, the Bears won!
Not too pleased about the three turnovers or the five-point score margin, but the victory is still sweet, especially because there was a lot on the line morale-wise for the Bears.
Trubisky is still a playmaker despite giving the ball away twice on Sunday. His arm is super powerful, and he just needs to reign it in under tight coverage. Trubisky is well on his way to erasing Jay Cutler from the history books, and I have no problem with that. He just needs to protect the pass more.
Khalil Mack went off with both a monster sack and a forced fumble, his fifth of the season, that he ended up recovering himself. The Bears defense as a whole is first in the league for interceptions, which should definitely be continued to be put to use in divisional play, especially this Thursday.
Turkey day is going to be extra special this week because the Bears face the Detroit Lions again on Thursday at 11:30 a.m., just in time for appetizers at my grandparents’ house. Chicago beat them literally not even two weeks ago, so as long as there’s no funny business, I should expect a good meal and a good show.
Maddie’s Monster of the Game (MoG): Bears safety Eddie Jackson picked off Vikings QB Kirk Cousins in the fourth quarter for a beautiful pick-six to give the Bears the edge they needed to hold off a last-minute Minnesota surprise victory. Defensive touchdowns are the most fun.