The Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears are headed in opposite directions.
Minnesota won its third straight game and improved to 4-5 on the season with a 19-13 victory over the Bears in Monday's NFC North clash at Soldier Field. Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson and the defense led the way for the victors, who have gradually climbed back into the playoff picture even though they are well behind the 7-2 Green Bay Packers in the division.
As for the 5-5 Bears, another impressive defensive effort was not enough to prevent a fourth straight loss as their free fall continued behind a terrible offense.
Notable Player Stats
- Kirk Cousins, QB, MIN: 25-of-36 for 292 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
- Dalvin Cook, RB, MIN: 30 carries for 96 yards; 4 catches for 16 yards
- Justin Jefferson, WR, MIN: 8 catches for 135 yards
- Adam Thielen, WR, MIN: 4 catches for 43 yards, 2 TDs
- Nick Foles, QB, CHI: 15-of-26 for 106 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT
Different Play-Caller, Same Result for Bears
The biggest question for the Bears heading into this game was how the offense would look after head coach Matt Nagy gave up his play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
Frankly, it was a long time coming considering the offense entered play 30th in the league in yards (317.8) and points (19.8) per game and has struggled in nearly every facet. That type of production is surely not what the Bears had in mind when they hired Nagy as an offensive coach coming from Andy Reid's staff on the Kansas City Chiefs.
It was more of the same with Lazor calling plays.
Nick Foles, who exited on the team's final possession with an injury, threw an interception to Harrison Smith on Chicago's opening possession as the lowlight of a first half that saw Chicago struggle to protect its quarterback and stall on multiple drives. Things got even worse in the second half, as the home team failed to get a single first down in the third quarter.
The third quarter has haunted the team all season, underscoring the lack of adjustments from a coaching staff that was once again in over its head on a big stage.
The only spark was a 104-yard kick-return touchdown from Cordarrelle Patterson that was ultimately wasted as Foles consistently missed on passes that could have been big plays with a supporting rushing attack that was, as usual, stuck in neutral.
There was no bigger miss than Foles' throw to Anthony Miller in the final minutes of the fourth quarter with the Bears down six. The receiver broke free for what could have been the winning touchdown, but Foles airmailed him as the offense once again let the team down.
Late Score Enough for Vikings
There were two competing narratives for the Vikings heading into this divisional showdown.
On the one hand, Cousins entered play with an 0-9 record on Monday nights and has famously struggled under the prime-time spotlight. On the other hand, Dalvin Cook has proved himself capable of carrying the offense on his own with 130 or more rushing yards in four of his previous five games and a combined six touchdowns in his last two outings.
The matchup between Cook and a strong Chicago defense took center stage, and it was fitting that he and defensive end Akiem Hicks were chirping at each other on the opening possession.
The Bears defense backed up that chirping in the early going by forcing a Kyle Rudolph fumble on the opening possession and stopping a promising drive with a Khalil Mack interception. It allowed just one touchdown in the first half—off a head-turning catch by Thielen—and kept Cook in relative check.
Minnesota even settled for two field goals in the third quarter on golden opportunities following a Dwayne Harris muffed punt and 54-yard catch from Jefferson, but things finally opened up after Hicks—who is arguably the most important player for Chicago's defense—exited with a hamstring injury.
The result was another touchdown catch from Thielen to give the Vikings the lead, although a botched extra point kept the Bears within six.
Fortunately for the visitors, six points against the Bears offense might as well be 30, and the Minnesota defense shut the door on the final drive.
The Vikings host the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11, while the Bears head into their bye before a Week 12 showdown with the rival Packers.