Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson Connect for TD as Vikings Defeat Justin Fields, Bears

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 21, 2021

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown as teammate K.J. Osborn watches during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

The Minnesota Vikings kept pace in the NFC playoff race with a 17-9 victory over the Chicago Bears on Monday night at Soldier Field in Chicago. 

Kirk Cousins hit Justin Jefferson for a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Just another day at the office for the two-time Pro Bowler ✈️ <br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/qPazxVIl8P">pic.twitter.com/qPazxVIl8P</a>

That was about where Minnesota's offense peaked as it finished with 193 yards

With the win, the Vikings overtook the New Orleans Saints for the final wild-card spot, their only route into the postseason after the Green Bay Packers clinched the NFC North on Sunday.

Notable Performers

Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings: 12-of-24, 87 yards, two touchdowns, one interception; two carries, 10 yards

Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings: 28 carries, 89 yards; two receptions, two yards

Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings: four receptions, 47 yards, one touchdown

Justin Fields, QB, Bears: 26-of-39, 285 yards, one touchdown; seven carries, 35 yards

David Montgomery, RB, Bears: 18 carries, 60 yards; five receptions, 23 yards

An All Too Familiar Sight for the Vikings

Through the first half, the Vikings had 93 total yards of offense, and Cousins was responsible for one of the uglier interceptions you'll see all season.

Bill Barnwell @billbarnwell

Next Gen doesn't know what to do with this pass. It assigns it a --% probability of being completed. That seems generous. <a href="https://t.co/SDJLGddaN9">pic.twitter.com/SDJLGddaN9</a>

Chris Long @ChrisLongKSTP

Well, then again, Jefferson appears to have already been down well before Cousins started the throw πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ?<br><br>So many questions. <a href="https://t.co/ar7shEwqCY">pic.twitter.com/ar7shEwqCY</a>

Per ESPN Stats & Info (via Courtney Cronin of ESPN), Minnesota's five yards in the second quarter were the team's fewest in a single quarter since 2018. A sputtering offense failing to maximize its talent at the skill positions? This is nothing new for Vikings fans.

Dustin Baker @DustBaker

Every. Single. Vikings. Bears. Game. Is. Like. This.

Daily Norseman: Fire Everybody @DailyNorseman

ESPN's sideline reporter saying that Zimmer said at halftime that the Vikings are "throwing the ball way too much."<br><br>Honest to God, I give up.

Cousins broke the game open on a seven-yard touchdown pass Ihmir Smith-Marsette with 5:51 left in the third quarter, and Minnesota owed a debt of gratitude to the officiating crew for the score.

Teez Tabor drew a dubious low block penalty when he tackled Dalvin Cook to set up a fourth down early in the possession, and an unnecessary roughness flag on Trevis Gipson set the Vikings up at the Bears' 15-yard line.

When you're struggling to move the ball, you take all the help you can get.

In general, Minnesota didn't so much win as it was the less bad team in Chicago.

Yaya Dubin @JADubin5

Kirk Cousins is averaging 3.4 YPA against a team playing without its entire starting secondary, and the Vikings are winning.

There isn't anything more to say about the 2021 Vikings that wouldn't have described the franchise over the last few years. There are a number of issues holding Minnesota back from being a Super Bowl contender, and all of them won't be resolved between now and the playoffs.

The Nagy Era Lurches Toward the End

Monday night provided the full Justin Fields spectrum. 

The rookie was effective through the air and prolonged plays with his legs, displaying the tools that can help him become a productive quarterback for a long time. He also made some critical errors that were totally avoidable.

Inside the final two minutes of the second quarter, a 1st-and-10 at the Vikings' 13-yard line became 2nd-and-24 at the 27 because Fields failed to get rid of the ball on a running back screen.

Minnesota Vikings @Vikings

.<a href="https://twitter.com/DWonnum?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DWonnum</a> got to Fields FAST!!! <br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNNFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNNFL</a> <a href="https://t.co/jDZ08cxzUo">pic.twitter.com/jDZ08cxzUo</a>

Some passers go from college to the pros and don't have much trouble adjusting to the increased speed of the NFL. For Fields, that acclimation isn't coming easily.

Arif Hasan, Search Firm Santa Claus @ArifHasanNFL

Fields with a fast processor and literally no other changes to his game would be killing the Vikings right now

Adam Jahns @adamjahns

I think a few things can be true here ... <br><br>1. Justin Fields is struggling. He's holding the ball too long. This game feels fast for him.<br><br>2. The Bears' play-calling and offensive system aren't helping him enough.<br><br>3. The Bears need to make significant upgrades around him.

Fields' development is unlikely to get on track until someone other than Matt Nagy is calling the plays.

CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported Sunday the Bears and Houston Texans "are heavily mulling launching a coach search in the coming weeks." La Canfora added that "many" of Chicago's assistants are already weighing their next move.

Firing Nagy now probably wouldn't achieve much this late into the season, but it's becoming apparent after a performance like this that his departure is inevitable.

Rodger Sherman @rodger

if Matt Nagy is going to make increasingly bad play calls he has to get increasingly mad and aggressive towards the refs to distract people from the plays

Kevin Cole @KevinColePFF

Okay, now I'm convinced these dudes are trying to get Nagy fired

Anything short of a totally clean slate across the coaching staff and front office may not be enough to turn the organization in the right direction. 

What's Next?

The Vikings host the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in another matchup that could have playoff implications. The Bears hit the road to face off with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET.