On Thursday night, the Minnesota Vikings looked to get another primetime victory under their belt after narrowly escaping against the Pittsburgh Steelers. They faced the Chicago Bears on Monday night at Soldier Field, a time and venue that historically hasn’t been friendly to the Vikings.
Despite the 10 days of rest between their two games, the Vikings came out as sloppy as ever on offense. They recorded a season-low in passing yards and counted on the defense to bail them out multiple times throughout the game on their way to a 17-9 win.
Here are five numbers that tell the story of the Vikings’ Monday night win.
The Vikings’ defense and special teams were able to take the ball away from the Bears three times. The fumbles started on Chicago’s second drive on offense when Cameron Dantzler could strip the ball from Justin Fields‘ hands and allow Anthony Barr to fall on the loose ball. The change in possession led to a field goal that pushed Minnesota’s lead to 10.
Then the Bears fumbled again just two drives later in the red zone when Sheldon Richardson punched the ball loose from David Montgomery‘s hands and promptly fell on it. Though it was initially ruled down by contact, the call was overturned after a successful challenge by Mike Zimmer.
The final turnover came after the Bears’ backup returner muffed a punt, which allowed Kris Boyd to fall on it. Despite taking over at the Chicago 37, the offense couldn’t get anything from the turnover.
The defense held up their end of the bargain in getting the ball back, but the offense needs to do more than just put up a single field goal when given so many chances.
Monday night wasn’t great for Kirk Cousins. He only put up 87 passing yards despite the win. Cousins’ performances on Monday night and primetime games, in general, have always been a knock on him, and he did little to buck the trend.
Despite the Bears missing almost all of their starting defensive backs, Cousins could only complete 50% of his passes. He threw a horrible interception in the middle of the field; however, it should have been called back for defensive holding.
Cousins hit Jefferson in the back of the end zone early to put the Vikings up seven. He also benefited from a wide-open Ihmir Smith-Marsette for his second touchdown after Jefferson drew three Bears defenders when he lined up in the backfield.
Cousins struggled, finishing just 4/12 on passes over 10 yards. He also finished with just 2.2 yards per pass. The interior offensive line didn’t provide him much help. Akeem Hicks wrecked almost every passing play. But Cousins still needs to be better against a defense that is so depleted.
D.J. Wonnum was a menace to rookie Justin Fields all game, generating eight pressures on the night. He has had to take an elevated role in the absence of Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter this season, and he stepped up when the team needed him.
Wonnum mostly contained Fields when he looked to break out of the pocket and bounce a run. He was practically breathing down Fields’ neck all game, recording three sacks and four hits on the rookie from Ohio State.
Wonnum also finished as the Vikings’ joint leading tackler with eight on the night. Sheldon Richardson was also active with his forced fumble and two run stops.
Dalvin Cook had to fight for every one of his 89 yards, as 66 of them came after contact. Cook ran the ball 28 times for an average of 3.2 yards per carry. The Bears’ front four was able to penetrate through the Vikings’ offensive line more often than not, and they closed down rushing lanes for Cook before he could hit them.
The offensive line didn’t fare much better in pass protection. According to PFF, despite only giving up eight pressures, they allowed four sacks. Cole was responsible for five of these pressures and two of the sacks, while Christian Darrisaw was at fault for the other two.
The Vikings’ defense saw a resurgence in their third- and fourth-down defense as they gave up just four conversions on 17 attempts. The defense avoided giving up the third-down conversions that have plagued them so far this season. Instead, they put pressure on Fields and force him into poor throws.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that the Vikings were also aided by penalties that drove the Bears back and kept them consistently behind the chains.
The Bears offense’s inability to convert red-zone trips into scores also helped the Vikings. Before the last drive, Chicago had just three points from five red-zone trips, and Fields was just 1/6 for six yards when inside the Vikings’ 20.