Vikings

Vikings-Bears Was A Magnificent, Beautiful Mess

Photo Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

It’ll be lost to history, blown away in the crisp January wind, but the Minnesota Vikings almost pulled off a slapdash stunt at the end of the first half of their 29-13 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

The Vikings took their final timeout with 20 seconds left in the half, immediately before Kirk Cousins checked down to Dalvin Cook for no gain. Greg Joseph ran out onto the field to line up for a field goal as time melted off the Soldier Field clock and converted the 24-yard field goal.

“I threw it inbounds, which then prevented us from getting the field goal at the end of the half,” said Cousins. “I should have thrown the ball to the end zone or out of bounds instead of leaving it inbounds.”

The officials decided to review Joseph’s kick. The Bears repeatedly played the snap over on the jumbotron. They played it, then slowed down as Andrew DePaola released the ball between his legs, running the play clock on the screen simultaneously. They slowed it down each time they played it. The sparse crowd responded incredulously every time he was shown snapping it, insisting that the kick shouldn’t count.

Eventually, the officials entered the field. Their call? No good.

Minnesota had 12 men on the field.

The field goal itself was inconsequential, but the replay extended a game that didn’t need to go on any longer. It was a microcosm of a relatively meaningless Week 18 contest in Chicago. The Bears entered the game as a three-win team hoping to lose to secure a better pick. The 13-4 Vikings played their starters in the first half in case the Arizona Cardinals upset the San Francisco 49ers later in the day. But Nick Mullens was under center to start the second half, and the game was in hand well before that.

Mullins could have entered the game earlier, but the Vikings couldn’t establish a meaningful lead early enough. Old friend Harrison Hand forced Cook to fumble on Minnesota’s second drive. Cousins took a delay-of-game penalty on third-and-four from Chicago’s five-yard line. Then he missed Adam Thielen on the next play when he threw toward the back-left pylon, and Thielen cut right. The starters could have gotten off the field quicker had the Vikings scored on those two drives.

“[There] was an awareness that we would like to play other players at some point in the game, whether that’s a half or a quarter, we just didn’t know,” said Cousins. “You go in there, and you try to play as efficiently as you can for as long as you’re in there. Outside of the low red zone, I think it was very efficient. And then down in the low red zone, it wasn’t good enough.”

That’s concerning against a Bears team that will pick first overall next year. But that’s not of any concern to the Vikings now. They’re headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2019.

“These are tough games sometimes, but I think guys just handled it well,” said Thielen, referring to playing in a relatively meaningless game. “No one really knew what it would look like, how long guys would play, when guys are gonna come out. But I think that preparation for a game that didn’t mean a whole lot shows a lot about your team.

“Guys just come to work and treat it like every other week. You prepare, you go out there and try to give your best effort, and then let everything else kinda play itself out. I think that’s impressive and maybe something that won’t be talked about. But something that shows what kind of team we have.”

Week 18 was anything but normal, though. Absent a competitive, well-played game, the entertainment was all the madness that took place in the shadow of the Chicago skyline. Duke Shelley picked off Tim Boyle late in the fourth, enacting revenge against the Bears, who cut him in Week 1 of this season. The officials had to stop play with 3:39 left in the game because a second football entered play. Chicago took a delay of game penalty that the Vikings declined.

The Bears started with Nathan Peterman under center but intermittently inserted Boyle. Peterman threw short of the sticks on fourth down; Boyle threw a YOLO ball intended for Chase Claypool that Patrick Peterson picked off. It may not end up mattering. Chicago may take a quarterback with the first pick next year, replacing Fields. Peterman and Boyle would be long gone in that scenario.

The Vikings will take the win. It was palate-cleanser, albeit a strange one, after the Green Bay Packers blew them out 41-7.

“Coach always talks about it,” said Peterson. “Any time we end up losing the game, we find a way to bounce back stronger. But heading into the next week, we can’t have those games. We can’t lose any games because it’s win or go home.

“So the real season starts now. That 17-week, 18-week season is pretty much make-up. Now it’s time to go out and play some complementary football, play with one another, because we have to understand everything matters. Every snap matters. Every second on the clock matters.”

Minnesota’s first playoff game will look a lot different than this one. Thankfully so, given that it was a chaotic mess. But it felt like an appropriate ending to the regular season for a team that has been anything but normal this year.

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Photo Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

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