The conversation has shifted slightly in recent days.
The Vikings were outplayed on both sides of the ball Sunday, falling 20-10 to the formerly 1-6 Chicago Bears, as their offensive line once again struggled to keep quarterback Sam Bradford upright and open holes for their shorthanded running game.
The defense wasn’t much better, turning in its worst performance of the season.
SUNDAY SCHOOL (ON MONDAY)
— It was another tough day for Bradford, who completed just 23 of his 37 passes for 228 yards. He found Stefon Diggs for a late touchdown, but the game was already more or less out of reach.
— Bradford was just 3-for-8 on passes of more than 10 yards, including an overthrown ball to Diggs that would have given the Vikings a 6-3 lead in the first quarter.
— Bradford was pressured on 16 of his 42 passing attempts, taking five sacks and completing just four passes while facing pressure. He also fumbled once, but it was recovered by the Vikings.
— The Vikings’ defense allowed 403 yards of total offense, their highest total since a loss to the Seattle Seahawks last December.
— Matt Asiata picked up just 42 yards on 14 carries. His longest run went for seven yards.
— Ronnie Hillman made just his second appearance for the Vikings and didn’t fare much better, rushing for 15 yards on four carries and a long run of six yards.
— Tight end Kyle Rudolph was targeted just six times, his second lowest total of the season, registering five catches for 31 yards. Despite the low usage he had his 83.3 catch percentage was his highest of the season.
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— The Bears’ passing game was effective, but it wasn’t exactly unbeatable. In the game’s most notable gaffe Jay Cutler threw into double coverage and hit Alshon Jeffery in the back of the head on a deep throw in the second quarter.
— Charles Johnson has seen his usage creep back up after seeing his snap percentage hit a season low of just 16 percent against the Houston Texans. He was on the field for 31 percent of the Vikings’ offensive snaps in Chicago but wasn’t targeted.
— Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was solid, if unspectacular. Jeffery had three catches on eight targets while being covered by Rhodes. He converted those catches into 52 receiving yards, all of which came during a nine-play sequence on the first drive of the third quarter.
WHAT IT MEANT
The Eagles game was a wakeup call for fans and pundits who’d been talking Super Bowl after the Vikings’ 5-0 start. Sunday’s game was more of an early-morning fire alarm. The Vikings’ offense generated just 258 yards of total offense and looked utterly anemic against the Bears’ No. 11-ranked pass defense. Most of the offense’s issues stem from the offensive line, but with the trade deadline here and the salary cap bearing down, working with the group they have may be the Vikings’ only option.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
There wasn’t much positivity to go around in this one, but defensive tackle Linval Joseph was one of the Vikings’ few bright spots. He hurried Cutler three times, hitting him once, and added three run stops.
Adam Thielen isn’t the Vikings’ most gifted wide receiver, but he’s shown some big-play ability when called upon. He made another outstanding catch in Chicago, hauling in a 21-yard pass on third down to set the Vikings up at the Bears’ 13-yard line.
Bradford had Diggs wide open over the middle on what would have been a sure touchdown pass with five minutes to go in the first quarter, but overshot him but inches. It’s the sort of throw that often looked automatic during the Vikings’ undefeated start, and yet another mistake that can likely be traced back to their offensive line.
153 rushing yards — Heading into Week 8 the Vikings had allowed just two players to rush for at least 50 yards, allowing a season-high 56 yards to Philadelphia Eagles running back Ryan Mathews in Week 7. That streak ended abruptly in Chicago, as rookie Jordan Howard racked up 153 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He added another 49 receiving yards and another touchdown, finishing with 202 all-purpose yards.
THEY SAID IT
"They controlled the game, and they controlled the tempo of the game." — Head coach Mike Zimmer
"I think I missed some things early that could have changed it for us." — Quarterback Sam Bradford
The Vikings return home to face a Detroit Lions defense that has struggled this season, as well as an offense that didn’t score until the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans, but their hold on the NFC North just became a lot less certain.