Vikings

Porous Defense Dooms Vikings in 33-27 Loss to Bears

Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

In a battle to stay alive in the NFC playoff race, the Minnesota Vikings defense failed to show up and the Chicago Bears won a shootout, 33-27. The loss drops them to 6-8 and essentially ends the Vikings season with two weeks remaining.

HOW’D THE OFFENSE DO?

For essentially the fourth straight home game, the Vikings were slow to start on offense and found their stride late. Too late. Despite a resilient second half where they scored 17 points and continued answering the Bears, their two possessions in the final four minutes came up short, and Kirk Cousins‘ Hail Mary was intercepted to end the game. More damaging was their turnover on downs moments earlier.

The Vikings went 0-for-2 in 4th and 1 situations, which may have cost them the game. With 2:00 left, Cousins was heavily pressured on a 4th and 1 and forced to throw the ball wildly toward the sideline incomplete. Minnesota also missed a 4th and 1 earlier on a run up the middle by Dalvin Cook that led to a Chicago field goal.

Cousins was under pressure throughout but managed to throw for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Irv Smith Jr. dropped a crucial third-down pass in the second quarter for a would-be touchdown, which put the Vikings behind the 8-ball at halftime, trailing 20-10. As fans have seen all year, the Vikings were more productive when trailing, but their defense didn’t allow them to climb out of the deficit.

Cook went over 100 yards for the eighth time this year, but for the fourth time of those eight Minnesota lost. Cook amassed 159 all-purpose yards on the day.

HOW’D THE DEFENSE DO?

In what might have been the weakest defensive performance of the season, the Vikings got carved up by a Mitch Trubisky-led Bears offense. A Chicago team that was hapless offensively when the teams met in Week 10 looked rejuvenated with their former first-round pick back under center as he defeated the Vikings for a third straight year at U.S. Bank Stadium. Despite a porous performance, Cameron Dantzler‘s interception in the end zone with just over three minutes left gave Minnesota hope in the closing moments — Trubisky’s one notable blunder on the afternoon.

Chicago went three-and-out on their first series but was hardly stopped thereafter. Trubisky used a steady diet of bootlegs and play-actions to challenge the Vikings linebackers and young corners, while David Montgomery eclipsed 100 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns. Minnesota was missing linebacker Eric Kendricks for a third straight week and clearly missed him in coverage and in run defense. Backup linebackers Todd Davis and Troy Dye also missed time Sunday with injuries, leaving the middle of the Vikings defense extremely short-handed.

At one point Chicago scored on six consecutive possessions not counting the expiration of the first half, building a 30-20 lead. It was a far cry from the fading team Minnesota saw at Soldier Field with Nick Foles at the helm. The Bears were 6-of-12 on third down and only committed one offensive penalty, a perfect recipe to win on the road.

DAN BAILEY UPDATE

The kicking was a bright spot for the Vikings. After Mike Zimmer elected to stick with the struggling Dan Bailey, he repaid the team with a 5-for-5 day, though all of his kicks were 33 yards and in. Nonetheless, it buys him another week after the Vikings brought in a Plan B in Taylor Bertolet to the practice squad.

BIG PICTURE

The Vikings’ bounceback from a 1-5 start appears to be for naught. Though they remain mathematically alive, Minnesota is virtually eliminated from the playoff hunt. It will be easy to point to injuries and young players on defense as a big reason why the season fell apart the way it did, but the veteran offense oftentimes didn’t carry its weight, which may be the biggest cause for concern.

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