Upon Further Review: Vikings all but eliminated after loss to Bears

Chicago running back David Montgomery rushed 32 times for a career-best 146 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It just wasn’t the Minnesota Vikings’ year.

Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter was ruled out of the season after undergoing neck surgery. Prized free-agent acquisition Michael Pierce opted out due to COVID-19 concerns. Linebacker Anthony Barr has been shelved since Week 2. And Eric Kendricks, the heart and soul of the Vikings defense, was forced to miss the last three weeks, which were basically must-win games.

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Four of Minnesota’s losses were by one possession, and five of the team’s losses occurred at home. Rookie cornerbacks struggled to learn on the fly. The injuries and inexperience added up to a 1-5 start, which was ultimately just too much to overcome for a last-minute playoff chase.

The Vikings suffered a 33-27 loss to quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears on Sunday, dropping their record to 6-8 overall. Chicago, now 7-7, leapfrogged Minnesota in the playoff picture and is nipping at the heels of Arizona (8-6) for the final NFC wild-card spot.

Trubisky, who began the season as the Bears’ starting quarterback, was benched and then promoted as the starter once again, was a playmaker against Minnesota. He completed 15 of 21 pass attempts for 202 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Running back David Montgomery rushed 32 times for a career-best 146 yards and two touchdowns.

Like it has practically all season, Minnesota found itself playing from behind. The Vikings trailed 20-7 in the second quarter, as they struggled to get momentum rolling on offense and couldn’t get a defensive stop. In their last four home games, the Vikings went 2-2 against Dallas, Carolina, Jacksonville and Chicago. They trailed by at least nine points in all four of those contests.

The Vikings will be officially eliminated from the postseason with either a loss to New Orleans or a win by Arizona next week. Considering the talented core on Minnesota’s roster, it was a disappointing season. But, once again, it just wasn’t the Vikings’ year.

Here’s a recap of Sunday’s game:

 

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Dalvin Cook rushed 24 times for 132 yards and a score, joining Tampa Bay’s Ronald Jones as the only two running backs to tally 100+ rushing yards against the Bears this season. Cook also added five catches for 27 yards. He was the force that kept Minnesota’s offense moving.

 

DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME

Rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler continues to look better and better. Dantzler logged three tackles with one pass deflection and an interception, bringing down a jump ball in the end zone late in the fourth quarter to keep Minnesota’s hopes alive. According to Pro Football Focus, Dantzler is the top-graded rookie cornerback in the NFL.

 

THAT MOMENT

Trailing 17-7 with six minutes to play in the first half, the Vikings faced a fourth-and-1 from their own 34-yard line. That’s typically a no-doubt punt situation for head coach Mike Zimmer. However, the Vikings opted to go for it. Quarterback Kirk Cousins handed it off to Cook, who was immediately stuffed for no gain. The Bears took over on downs and moved the ball just 17 yards on the ensuing possession to tack on another field goal before halftime.

 

THIS NUMBER

73 — Rookie phenom Justin Jefferson caught eight passes for 104 yards Sunday, bringing his reception total up to 73 on the season to shatter Randy Moss’ rookie record of 69 set in 1998. Jefferson will have to average 160 yards over the next two games to catch Moss’ rookie record of 1,398 receiving yards. We certainly wouldn’t put it past him.

 

THEY SAID IT

“We didn’t play very well defensively today. Last time we played [the Bears], they didn’t score a touchdown on us defensively, and this week we couldn’t slow them down. We didn’t do a good job on the bootlegs, didn’t do a good job in the run game. So that was really disappointing.” – head coach Mike Zimmer

“We still devote a lot of our plays to running the football, so the number of times were handing the ball off and doing so fairly effectively, those are plays where we’re not taking an opportunity to take a shot downfield. We did call a lot of plays trying to take a shot; it just didn’t time up with the defense they were in. They would play a deep shell and keep everything in front of them, and that’s when you’d have to progress and check it down.” – quarterback Kirk Cousins

“Well, we’re disappointed.” — Zimmer on being a long-shot for the playoffs

 

WHAT’S NEXT

Minnesota visits the New Orleans Saints (10-4) at 3:30 p.m. Christmas Day. Quarterback Drew Brees returned from injury Sunday, but the Saints lost 32-29 to Kansas City. The last meeting between these two teams was during wild-card weekend in the 2019 postseason when the Vikings defeated New Orleans 26-20 in overtime.