Soldier Field has been giving the Minnesota Vikings fits for the last two decades, no matter how horrific the Chicago Bears become.
Last year’s 20-10 loss at Soldier Field to Chicago – which would win only three games and was 1-7 after that victory over Minnesota -- signified the freefall of a once-undefeated Vikings team. Even the Brett Favre-led 2009 Vikings lost in overtime in the Windy City.
But on Monday night, that was not the case. The Vikings defense forced two turnovers, spoiling the debut of Chicago’s rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and backup Case Keenum took the reins at quarterback just before halftime to lead the Vikings to a 20-17 win over the Bears.
The Soldier Field scaries might be officially in the rearview mirror.
It was a painful first half to watch. Quarterback Sam Bradford was making his first start after missing the last three weeks with lingering soreness in his left knee. By Minnesota’s second drive, it was obvious the knee was bothering him and is a significant concern for his long-term health. Bradford was pulled before the Vikings’ last possession of the first half.
Keenum got the call and went 17 of 21 for 140 yards and a touchdown the rest of the way. Keenum’s touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph in the third quarter was revered by a brilliant “duck, duck, gray duck” celebration that spiraled Twitter into a debate on whether the game is called “duck, duck, gray duck” or “duck, duck, goose.”
We know the correct answer in Minnesota.
Check out a full recap of Monday’s win (Story | Photos):
PLAYER OF THE GAME
After rookie phenom Dalvin Cook tore his ACL and was placed on the injured reserve last week, the Vikings needed someone to step up to lead their rushing attack. Jerick McKinnon answered the call. He rushed 16 times for 95 yards, looking shiftier and stronger than ever. The 95 yards aren’t a career-high for “Jet” – he’s tallied over 100 rushing yards twice – but it was arguably his most impressive game. McKinnon busted open for a 58-yard touchdown run off a flip from Keenum, his longest touchdown run since a 68-yarder in 2015 against the New York Giants. It was an impressive performance against a middle-of-the-road rushing defense and might be enough to restore hope in the Cook-less Vikings running game.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
It’s hard to forget about Harrison Smith, a two-time Pro Bowl safety. For a split second, Trubisky did. With just over two minutes to play and the score tied, Chicago’s rookie quarterback rolled to his right and tossed the football to Zach Miller. But Smith jumped in the way and intercepted the pass, giving the Vikings offense much-needed field position inside the Bears 30-yard line, setting up the game-winning field goal. That was Smith’s second interception of the season, two more than he recorded in 14 games last year.
Late in the second quarter, Bradford could barely limp to the sideline. Minnesota’s offense had ended its first five drives with four punts and a safety. Down 2-0 (thanks to that Bears safety), the Vikings desperately needed a spark and a way to move the ball. Everson Griffen ignited Minnesota by steamrolling past left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and stripping the ball from Trubisky, which was recovered by defensive tackle Linval Joseph. It allowed the lethargic offense to take over in the Chicago’s red zone, and it responded with a Kai Forbath field goal to take a 3-2 lead into halftime -- the first time an NFL game went into the break with a 3-2 score since 2008.
USA TODAY SportsMatt Marton
The Vikings have now won three games at Soldier Field since 2001, good for a 3-14 record. To be fair, Minnesota has taken two of the last three in Chicago and owns a 12-4 record at home against the Bears in that same span. Chicago visits Minneapolis on New Year’s Eve to close out the regular season.
THEY SAID IT
“I was talking to my wife this past week that you see [unique celebrations] around the league, and I was saying ‘We need to be more creative!’” – Case Keenum on the duck, duck grey duck touchdown celebration
“We wouldn’t put him on the field if he wasn’t healthy enough to play. He was very confident about it. He felt good about it. … I don’t think there was any doubt whatsoever that he was ready to go.” -- head coach Mike Zimmer on Sam Bradford’s health
“We got that one, baby. We got that one! Hell yeah! That feels so good.” – Everson Griffen celebrating the win in the locker room.
“Not the prettiest game, but we’ll take it. It’s a division win. We’re in Chicago, always hard to win here.” – Linebacker Eric Kendricks
Minnesota returns to U.S. Bank Stadium to face another divisional foe, the Green Bay Packers. Dun, dun duuun! Green Bay is coming off a comeback 35-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys, thanks to another successful two-minute drive conducted by Aaron Rodgers. Bring on the cheeseheads.