Given a Week 17 home game with a chance to punch their playoff ticket, the Minnesota Vikings started flat, finished flat and watched their postseason dreams evaporate with a 24-10 loss to the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia’s 24-0 win against Washington.
Minnesota gained just 164 offensive yards and went 1 of 11 on third down. Their vaunted third-down defense allowed 8 of 14 conversions. The $84 million quarterback, Kirk Cousins, was flustered virtually from start to finish and seemed at odds with his receivers as the Vikings failed to move the ball.
It’ll be a long offseason for the organization as decision-makers try to sort out how to improve an offense with a struggling offensive line, poor depth at receiver and a quarterback who struggled in important games throughout 2018.
The Vikings offense was once again non-existent in the first quarter and a half, as it was a week earlier in Detroit. For the second consecutive week, Minnesota failed to get a first down on its first four drives under interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. Penalties, sacks and inefficient runs put them behind the chains and sucked the energy from a once-raucous building. Stefanski’s fate will likely be determined in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Bears struck on their opening drive Sunday, going 71 yards on six plays, the biggest play being a 42-yard Jordan Howard run. Howard finished that drive off with a six-yard touchdown plunge.
Chicago used a controversial third-down roughing the passer call three drives later to kickstart an 85-yard touchdown drive that ended in Howard’s second touchdown. After Cody Parkey’s missed extra point, it was 13-0 — Minnesota hadn’t come back from a deficit more than nine points on the season (Week 16).
The Vikings had momentary life early in the fourth quarter. After Cousins hit Stefon Diggs for the team’s only touchdown on a two-yard pass, the score was 13-10 and the U.S. Bank Stadium contingent was back at full throat. Then Chicago put together one of its finest drives of the year: a 16-play, 75-yard, nine-minute, five-second gem with five third-down conversions. Tarik Cohen’s touchdown to cap it left the Vikings down two scores with just 7:46 remaining.
The roughing the passer call to sustain Chicago’s second touchdown drive drew ire from Vikings fans after Stephen Weatherly shoved Trubisky to the ground late but didn’t appear to hit him excessively. The call essentially got canceled out later, however, as Minnesota’s third-quarter touchdown drive got extended in similar fashion with Cousins drawing a flag after a third-down failure.
There was plenty of talk going on about whether Chicago would play its starters the whole game if Los Angeles held a large lead against the 49ers to take away the Bears’ bye week hopes. While the Rams did their part, at one point leading 28-3 before halftime, the Bears kept their starters on the field and refused to let up against their division rivals. They suffered injuries to receivers Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel in the game, and were already down Allen Robinson, but the Bears pounded the Vikings with running backs Howard and Cohen, totaling 169 yards in the ground game.
Minnesota finished the season 8-7-1 — the fourth straight year Cousins has concluded a season as a starter with between 7-9 wins.
The Vikings expected he’d be the missing piece that would propel them to a Super Bowl, but as fans have learned time and again, progress is rarely linear. Minnesota heads back to the drawing board after a bitter end to a rocky season.
More to come from U.S. Bank Stadium.
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