It was not pretty but a win is a win, as they say. The Vikings have plenty to be pleased with in their win over the Bears Monday night but also some real issues that need to be ironed out moving forward. This is especially true now that they are only a game back in the NFC North but with a loss to Detroit already in hand.
Aside from being one of the best run-support safeties in the game, Smith showed off exactly why he is a two-time Pro Bowler with his pass coverage. Mitchell Trubisky targeted Smith four times, completing only one pass for negative yardage. Smith also made the biggest play of the game late in the fourth quarter, baiting Trubisky into an ill-advised throw and getting the interception in Bears territory. Kai Forbath subsequently hit the game-winning field goal for the Vikings.
Danielle Hunter provided the more consistent pass-rush but Griffen worked left tackle Charles Leno all game in run-support. Leno frequently found himself five yards in the backfield when trying to block Griffen, allowing linebackers and secondary to rack up the tackles. Griffen himself recorded two tackles for loss. He also had a sack-fumble on Trubisky that led to a field goal late in the second half. That sack, his sixth of the season, was his fifth straight game with at least one, tying a career-high.
With no Dalvin Cook and lackluster production from Latavius Murray, McKinnon stepped in nicely, recording 22 touches for 146 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. The biggest was a 58-yard touchdown run in the third that finally ignited a little bit of life into a struggling Viking offense. One would assume that, barring a free agent signing, McKinnon will be shouldering most of the load from here on out.
Leonard Floyd had Remmers spinning like a top in pass protection on multiple occasions. While he cannot be blamed for the sack of Sam Bradford that resulted in a safety since Bradford held the ball far too long, Floyd still recorded another sack, two other quarterback hits and three other tackles for loss. It did not get much better when going up against Pernell McPhee, either. Remmers got burned badly by speed rushes multiple times on plays that did not officially go down as pressures.
This seemed like Murray’s last real chance to establish himself as a threat on this Viking offense and nothing came of it. The plan was to give him the bulk of the carries but he managed just 31 yards on 12 carries with a long of eight yards. Granted, the interior line did not do him many favors but McKinnon was at least able to break off a long run and contribute in the passing game. One would have to assume that Rick Spielman is going to take another look at the free agent running back pool before Sunday’s game against the Packers.
Elflein has been a solid performer at center in his rookie season but this was a rough one for him. Going against accomplished veteran Akiem Hicks most of the game, Elflein found himself in his quarterback’s lap on more than a few pass attempts and was blown up multiple times on running plays. This is not a huge concern right now as Elflein has held his own most of the year and this was his first time looking over-matched. But his performance played a big role in the Vikings’ lack of a run game on Monday.
Cowboys lose a heartbreaker to the Packers