Vikings

A Cathartic Victory In Chicago Could Launch A Playoff Run

Photo Credit: Quinn Harris (USA TODAY Sports)

It is verboten in the Land of 10,000 Lakes to speak of a runaway victory in Chicago. The game must be played like the Soldier Field turf has been replaced with quicksand, surrounded by thick air that would stop a forward pass mid-flight. The score must be close. The result, disappointing. The starting quarterback? Slandered relentlessly on Twitter, Reddit, and other unscrupulous corners of the internet.

It’s the kind of game that tempts Mike Zimmer to turn back the clock and win with defense and the running game. He saw Bill Belichick beat the Buffalo Bills in a game where his New England Patriots only threw the ball three times and probably went I can beat the Chicago Bears with two. He has bitten into the forbidden fruit before. Matt Nagy has continually presented him with a game won in the trenches — yard by yard, inch by inch — and beaten him in five of their last six meetings.

But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way. At the risk of violating a State of Minnesota statute and suffering the customary penalty (50 lashings and a December dunk in the frigid waters of Lake Minnetonka), I present to you an idea.

The Minnesota Vikings can have their first cathartic victory since beating the Seattle Seahawks 30-17 in Week 3. The kind of win that catalyzes them to go on a playoff run.

There’s no reason the Vikings can’t turn the Bears into a pelt. They should beat a Chicago team with an aging defense and that’s hampered by a COVID outbreak. Now that Urban Meyer has been dishonorably discharged and allowed to bar hop in Central Ohio without professional consequence, Nagy is probably the only coach sitting on a hotter seat than Mike Zimmer.

Nagy was supposedly on the verge of being fired before the Thanksgiving game in Detroit. But Bears ownership determined that it was more of a punishment to have him spend his Thanksgiving in Detroit. If the Vikings stomp Chicago on Monday Night Football, the Bears may pack up and depart for Arlington Heights early. Nagy? He’ll be looking for an Uber in the Soldier Field parking lot.

The Bears’ defense isn’t what it once was. Justin Fields is a rookie quarterback, and Zimmer bakes rookie quarterbacks like deep-dish pizza. Fields has as many offensive weapons as Switzerland. He endures enough pressure that he should secure his mask before helping others. Minnesota’s defense should score. Their suddenly healthy offense should dance the night away in Chicago’s end zone. This one should be over before they have a chance to blow it.

Even if cosmic forces have determined that the Vikings must play in a close game, the blueprint for a blowout in Chicago might be the last game they played. Only maybe they don’t need to tempt fate quite as much as they did.

No, nobody wants to suffer through a meltdown like that – blowing a 29-0 lead in the fourth quarter. But Minnesota was never really at risk of losing the game. They had no less than an 80% chance of winning at any point, even though the Pittsburgh Steelers nearly scored a touchdown as the final seconds mercifully melted off the US Bank Stadium clocks.

Did it feel like the Vikings would lose when Pittsburgh scored to make it 29-7? Yes, absolutely. Should that game ever have been that close? No. Should the Vikings be completely prepared for this Bears game and drop-kick them into Lake Michigan after not playing for well over a week? Absolutely.

However, I can’t guarantee that will happen, folks. The Vikings had an entire week to prepare for a winless Detroit Lions team and lost. It was nearly their second loss to the Motor City Kitties this season. Vikings fans were meant to suffer. Their conservative play will always keep games close, constantly requiring the jaws of life in a situation where the road to victory was clear.

But here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be this way. They could choose to relentlessly throw the ball Justin Jefferson’s way if only to draw pass interference penalties. Target Adam Thielen in the red zone. Use the passing game to create space for Dalvin Cook to operate in the running game. Blitz Fields mercilessly.

Or they could choose to run on first and second down and have Kirk Cousins check down to Tyler Conklin and C.J. Ham when the Bears’ defense pins their ears back. There’s nothing more fun than punting the ball into the gusty Chicago air.

The choice is theirs.

If they choose to go and end this hapless Bears team, it could be the start of something. Cousins has won in Soldier Field and in primetime. The offense has been sporadically electric, and the defense has held it together through waves of injuries. Now it’s time to put it all together and wake up a national audience that has snoozed through a Las Vegas Raiders-Cleveland Browns mid-afternoon game. Convince themselves and their fans that they can beat the Los Angeles Rams, the Green Bay Packers, and Bears again at home — that they could go on a playoff run and hit their potential when it matters most.

Or they could put the national audience to bed and dissolve all reason for hope.

We’ll see what kind of team shows up on Monday night. But don’t count out an emphatic victory in a place that has haunted them for years.

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Photo Credit: Quinn Harris (USA TODAY Sports)

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