EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings arrived at the venue that’s been their biggest nemesis without their best running back, Dalvin Cook, for the first time since his season-ending knee injury.
Starting quarterback Sam Bradford had another setback with his knee problem, significant enough for him to be pulled from the game in Chicago after an obvious struggle with evading the pass rush and stepping into his throws.
Stefon Diggs, the NFL’s leading wide receiver entering the week, was limited by an injury to his groin on Monday, too.
The Vikings still managed to survive their latest trip to Soldier Field with a 20-17 victory made possible by a strong second-half performance from backup quarterback Case Keenum, keeping their season on course with a crucial game against division-leading Green Bay approaching on Sunday.
“We’ll take it, man,” linebacker Eric Kendricks said. “It’s a division game. We’re in Chicago. It’s always hard to win here.”
Kendricks wasn’t kidding.
The Vikings have lost 30 games to the Bears in their history at Soldier Field, topping their 23 defeats by the Packers at Lambeau Field.
Even with Green Bay largely in control of the NFC North since the millennium, the Vikings are 5-10-1 at Lambeau Field since the start of 2003. They’re 3-12 at Soldier Field, after winning on Monday .
They were victorious on the strength of their ability to weather Bradford’s early trouble, move the ball effectively on the ground with Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray and force Bears rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky into two turnovers that set up two field goals.
“You’ve just got to be scrappy like that sometimes,” Kendricks said.
Everson Griffen’s sack forced a fumble by Trubisky in the second quarter that was recovered by Linval Joseph at the Chicago 13-yard line.
Harrison Smith intercepted Trubisky’s across-the-body pass in the fourth quarter and gave the Vikings the ball at the Bears 28. That’s the type of performance that’s come to be expected under Zimmer.
“The defense played incredible all night, and it’s great to have those guys at our back,” Keenum said.
The effort on the other side of the ball, engineered by another effective game calling plays by offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, was more meaningful given the circumstances of Cook’s and Bradford’s absences and the less-than-ideal condition of Diggs.
Keenum completed 17 of 21 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown.
“Seeing him take control is something special,” Diggs said, adding: “He’s real focused, but he’ll give you some positivity and some high energy. So he came in with the right mindset.”
Diggs had only one reception for 4 yards, but downplayed the injury afterward.
“I’m all right. Things happen out there,” he said. “I had to go through a little bit of a gimp out there, but I’ll never make excuses for anything.”
As for Cook, head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman said the rookie had surgery on Monday to repair his ACL. Dr. James Andrews performed the operation in Pensacola, Florida, and no further damage was detected with a full recovery expected by the beginning of training camp next year.