The Minnesota Vikings’ win over the Chicago Bears on Monday night brought out all of the adjectives — and they weren’t the kind used in a love letter. Monday’s effort was ugly, disgusting, and revolting rolled up into a giant flannel blanket. It was the type of game you wouldn’t touch with a 39½” pole. You needed a healthy dose of Clorox to cleanse your eyes afterward.
But after the yelling, screaming, and burning subsided, Vikings fans had to be asking a simple question: Why do the Vikings play so poorly at Soldier Field?
With Monday’s win, the Vikings improved to 6-15 in Chicago since 2000. But it hasn’t been just that they lose in Chicago. It’s how they’ve lost in Chicago.
In 2004, Soldier Field was where Chad Hutchinson had the best game of his career. Twelve years later, it was the scene where Mike Zimmer was stabbed in the eye with his own play sheet. Sam Bradford limped into obscurity the following year, and Case Keenum catapulted into Vikings lore.
Soldier Field is not just home to the Monsters of the Midway; it’s the gateway to the fourth dimension of hell. Things that don’t happen in a normal game always seem to happen when they play the Bears. If that’s on the minds of Vikings fans, where does it lie in the minds of players?
This current group of Vikings never was shredded by Jay Cutler, but they still have the scars of some inexplicable losses in Chicago. It was set up to be a strange night when Chicago announced they were placing several players on the COVID list, including five players from the secondary.
Rational coaching would look at the Bears’ secondary and have their quarterback light it up like Noel candles. But that rationale doesn’t exist when the Vikings come to town.
Cousins put forth a vintage primetime performance, throwing for a career-low 87 yards. He was without Adam Thielen, but he also made some decisions on par with blunders of recent trips to Chicago.
The most questionable blunder was an interception thrown late in the second quarter. When Justin Jefferson was dragged down by a defender, Cousins had the right idea to throw the ball up to see if the refs would throw a flag. But that only happens if Cousins throws the ball in the vicinity of the receiver.
Instead, like Ron Burgandy reading the teleprompter, Cousins threw it where Jefferson was supposed to be. He threw a looping “500” ball into the night, and the pass was intercepted by Deon Bush, and the Bears had prime field position.
Things got weirder as the night continued. While Matt Nagy continued to do his Tony LaRussa impersonation and berate the refs, the Vikings were doing their best to keep him from getting fired in the middle of the third quarter.
The Vikings had put themselves in a position to make it a three-score game after recovering a muffed punt in Chicago territory. With the ball on the 34-yard line, the Vikings called two Dalvin Cook runs, and a pair of short passes from Cousins that put sent them back to the 38-yard line.
At this point, Zimmer’s brain went into overdrive, trying to decide what to do on fourth down. After 10 men ran onto the field, the Vikings burned a timeout before ultimately deciding to punt. The decision gave the Bears new life and almost made it a one-score game if Darnell Mooney could have gotten his knee down in the corner of the end zone.
The weirdness continued when the Vikings completely went into Ultimate Mike Zimmer Football mode. Zimmer went to his desire to run the ball to escape Chicago with a victory.
Perhaps this would have worked against most teams, but not when Akiem Hicks annihilates your offensive line. With Mason Cole showing the same shock as Lloyd Christmas finding Sea Bass in a gas station bathroom stall, running the ball up the middle was probably the worst way to attack.
This is especially true when five members of the opposing secondary were working at a Wal-Mart at this time last week.
In the end, this game had everything you’ve grown to know and love from the 2021 Vikings. But it was on another level with the cosmic power of Soldier Field.
The Vikings would have marched into Chicago and rag-dolled the Bears in a normal universe. Instead, it was another chapter of a curse that had gotten inside of their heads.