It was not the smoothest performance you will ever see.
Nevertheless, the Vikings were able to eek out a 20-17 victory over the division-rival Bears at Soldier Field thanks to a 26-yard Kai Forbath field goal in the final seconds. There is a lot to unpack in this one.
This was not a pretty game on either side. Penalties galore, strange miscues and injuries made this a tough watch for fans of both teams. It seemed like every long run came back with a holding call, every defensive stand had a flag accompanying it. Bradford limped his way through the first half. Stefon Diggs went down with a groin issue. John Timu and Kyle Long exited with injuries for Chicago. The Soldier Field grass had a typical Soldier Field grass kind of day.
That being said, it was a solid defensive effort from the Vikings. They got standout play once again from Everson Griffen and Harrison Smith and a few miscues from the usual culprits, Andrew Sendejo and Trae Waynes. But all in all, the unit made the debuting Mitchell Trubisky work hard for every completion and forced a bad interception late in the fourth quarter.
Offensively, this was just a strange night. Bradford started but never looked comfortable and left before halftime. Case Keenum replaced him and played solidly, but there was never much of an offensive rhythm until very late. The loss of Dalvin Cook clearly hampered the gameplan as Latavius Murray never got much going early. Jerick McKinnon was far superior as a running back option and ran for nearly 100 yards.
Quite simply, though it was not a well-played game, the fact that the Vikings were able to win despite adversity is a good sign moving forward.
Who Stood Out
Considering his playing was not part of the plan, Keenum was pretty sharp tonight. Though he did not wow with throws down the field like in week three, he managed the game effectively and kept drives alive while the running game struggled to get going. With the defense playing well, he did just enough to keep the Vikings ahead.
Jerick McKinnon also deserves credit for his 95-yard performance, especially the 58-yard touchdown in the third quarter. While not quite Dalvin Cook, McKinnon was more than just a third-down back, popping off multiple double-digit runs and keeping the running game relevant while Murray remained ineffective.
But the real star of this game for Minnesota was Everson Griffen. The numbers do not jump off the page but Griffen was a disruptor on just about every play, at times driving Bears tackle Charles Leno five yards into the backfield. He also made one of the biggest plays of the game by sacking Trubisky and forcing a fumble that Linval Joseph recovered. With his sixth sack of the season, Griffen has now recorded one in five consecutive games, tying a career-high.
Whoever gave the OK for Sam Bradford to start should be ashamed of themselves. At best, Bradford looked 50 percent. He clearly had no confidence in his knee, not stepping into his throws at any point and twice just falling to the ground untouched to avoid taking a hit. Even then he would get up favoring the left knee.
Fans cannot blame Bradford for this; it is his job to do whatever he can to get on the field and it was said that Bradford’s ability to play would just be a matter of pain management. But either that was a lie and he still has more strength to gain or the pain was too great for him to put any weight on the knee. Either way, Keenum was clearly the better option the second he stepped onto the field with two healthy legs.
Pessimistic fans could look at how Bradford appeared tonight and see the IR in his future and Teddy Bridgewater in theirs.
It is the third of three straight NFC North match-ups as the Vikings welcome the Green Bay Packers to U.S. Bank Stadium in week six. With this win, Minnesota is now just a game out of first place in the division and a win would go a long way in their playoff push.
Read Clayton Brooks’ game recap here.