Vikings vs. Bears: Takeaways from Minnesota's 31-30 Loss to Chicago
The Minnesota Vikings were supposed to lose to the Chicago Bears. Everywhere you turn, so-called experts were giving this game to the Bears. Five of the six sportswriters for the St. Paul Pioneer Press were picking the Bears, as were all nine of the Chicago Tribune experts.
It was a close game, but still a one-point loss that drops the Vikings to 0-2 on the season and 0-2 in the NFC North. This game will be remembered for the lost chances by the Vikings, driving deep into Bears' territory in the second half, only to come out of it with three field goals.
Christian Ponder looked better this week, making some key plays with both his arm and his feet as the Vikings scored 30 points.
All's not lost as the Vikings may be 0-2, but they have not yet played at home where they finished 7-1 last season.
Here are some takeaways from the game against the Bears.
The Schedule-Makers Are Mean
With two inter-division road games to open the season, the NFL could not have made things much tougher for the Minnesota Vikings.
While it really shouldn't matter when these games occur—especially since the Vikings host both the Lions and the Bears later this season, opening the season with an 0-2 record has historically led to a tough road to make the playoffs.
The Vikings still have a chance to turn things around and finish with a better road record than last season when they went 3-5 away from the Metrodome.
Christian Ponder Played Better Than Last Week
With four turnovers against Detroit in Week 1, Christian Ponder single-handedly gave away the Vikings' opener against the Lions. This week against the Chicago Bears he looked much better—of course it would have been impossible for him to look any worse.
He finished the game 16-of-30 for 227 yards with a touchdown. Unfortunately, he also threw another interception, his fourth of the season. This one was costly, as cornerback Tim Jennings returned it 44 yards for a touchdown.
At the time, it gave the Bears a 21-14 lead in the second quarter.
Ponder's passer rating for the game was 75.3, an improvement from his 63.1 rating from last week—but not as good as Cutler's 97.2 rating after completing 28-of-39 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Head Coach Leslie Frazier Is Willing to Take Chances
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Leslie Frazier projects an image of someone who doesn't get rattled. Whenever you look at him on the sidelines he is always under control, no matter what the situation.
In his press conferences he is polite and courteous, often using the person's name when he answers their question.
All this might make some people think he is too calm and needs to find a way to fire up his team. On Sunday against the Bears, I think he found that way.
Twice in the second half, Frazier had his offense go for it on fourth down—and twice it resulted in a first down.
The first came early in the third quarter on the Vikings' first drive of the half. Facing a 4th-and-1 from their own 43-yard line, Ponder faked a handoff to Adrian Peterson and rolled out looking to pass; instead he scrambled to gain two yards and the first down. Unfortunately on the next play Adrian Peterson fumbled away the ball.
The second fourth-down conversion came with 10:42 left in the game and the Vikings driving deep into Bears territory. Facing a 4th-and-1 on the 18-yard line, the Vikings gave Peterson the ball and he gained four yards to get the first down.
Unfortunately, the drive only resulted in a field goal.
Cordarrelle Patterson Is the Real Deal
On the opening play of the game, rookie Cordarrelle Patterson extended a streak for the Minnesota Vikings by returning a kickoff return for a touchdown. It was the fifth straight season the Vikings have scored on a kickoff return.
Patterson took the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown and gave the Vikings an early lead—and other teams something to worry about. He finished the day with three returns for 149 yards, good for an average of 49.7 yards per return.
Adrian Peterson Has a Long Way to Go to Gain 2,500 Yards
After scoring three touchdowns last week against the Detroit Lions, the Minnesota Vikings could have used one this week against the Chicago Bears.
Peterson finished the day with 100 yards on 26 carries but failed to get in the end zone. He opened the game with only nine yards on his first six carries.
The key is to just keep giving him the ball; he will eventually break off a long run. His longest run on the day was good for 36 yards.
With two games down and only 193 yards on the season, Peterson will need to average 164.8 yards per game over the remainder of the season to achieve 2,500 yards.
While 96.5 yards per game is a very good average and would lead to 1,544 yards on the season, it's just not up to Peterson's standards.
Perhaps We Have Seen the Start of a Beautiful Relationship
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After only making three receptions against the Detroit Lions last week, Greg Jennings came up a bit bigger on Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
He led the Vikings with five receptions for 84 yards. Three of those receptions came on third down with Jennings averaging 20.7 yards per reception.
The first came on a 3rd-and-13 from the Vikings' own 17-yard line. Jennings caught a pass for 18 yards and a first down.
The second came on a 3rd-and-2 on the Vikings' 20-yard line. Another completion and another first down when he gained 22 yards.
The third came on a 3rd-and-3 with the Vikings on the Chicago 28-yard line. Jennings had a 22-yard catch-and-run for a first-and-goal for the Vikings.
This is what he was good at in Green Bay; hopefully this is just the start of something special for the Vikings.
When Jared Allen Makes a Play, Good Things Happen
The Minnesota Vikings only managed to sack Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler once in the game, but what a play that turned into.
Facing a 3rd-and-9 from the Vikings 31-yard line and the Bears leading 14-7, Cutler tried to evade the rush from Jared Allen. Allen was able to knock the ball away, and as he took Cutler to the ground it was kicked in the direction of Brian Robison who picked it up and rumbled 44 yards for a touchdown.
The Vikings Missed Kevin Williams
Sure, Kevin Williams only made one tackle in the game against the Bears on Sunday, and the Bears were able to average 5.0 yards per attempt on the ground, but there's no denying that his presence had an effect on the defense.
The Bears did not score a rushing touchdown in the game. Facing a 1st-and-goal on the Vikings 1-yard line, the Bears decided to use a play-action pass to score. Instead the ball was tipped a couple of times and wound up falling in the arms of Williams in the end zone.
At the time the score was tied at 14, and it gave the Vikings some momentum.
Sure, it might have been a lucky play, but it happened with the Vikings six-time Pro Bowler on the field.
The Vikings Just Never Seem to Learn Some Lessons
Devin Hester is one of the best return men in the game of football—and the Vikings cannot find a way to keep the ball out of his hands.
In the game, Hester returned five kickoffs for 249 yards. That's an average of 49.8 yards per return.
After Cordarrelle Patterson opened the game with a 105-yard return for a touchdown, Hester answered with a 76-yard return of his own, giving the Bears the ball on the Vikings' 32-yard line.
On the Vikings' second kickoff, Hester returned it for 80 yards, again giving the Bears a short field. After every score the Bears started with very good field position.
At some point it would just make sense to kick the ball out of bounds.
Chris Cook Isn't Ready to Be a Shutdown Corner
Before the season started, Chris Cook asked for the responsibility of covering the opposition's best receivers. In his fourth NFL season, Cook is the elder statesman of the Minnesota defensive backfield.
The Vikings could really use someone to step up and provide some leadership on defense for the departed Antoine Winfield.
Cook had that opportunity with 0:10 left in the game. He could have come up with a big play to prevent the touchdown to Chicago tight end Martellus Bennett.
Instead Bennett hauled in the 16-yard pass from Jay Cutler and scored the winning touchdown.