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Vikings vs. Bears: Game Notes

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

It was an ugly game. But it was an ugly, road win. And it was an ugly, road, division win. And it was an ugly, road, division win at Soldier Field. It was even an ugly, road, division win at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football. So book it, be happy and move on. Vikings move to 3-2, and need to rally the troops with the Packers coming to town on Sunday.

What the Vikings Did Well

  • Run defense. The Bears wanted to be able to run the ball effectively with Trubisky starting his first NFL game, and with two RBs that have had some good games, and with not so much at WR. But the Vikings #3 ranked run defense was up to the task, and largely shut down the Bears running game, generating some big tackles-for-loss in the process. The Vikings defensive line maybe didn’t totally dominate the Bears offensive line, but they came pretty close. They were getting the push most of the game, and that was key in shutting down the Bears offense most of the game.
  • Pass coverage, except Andrew Sendejo. I believe the latter was responsible for all the big completions Trubisky had. Trae Waynes gave up one or two completions in tight coverage, but still looked better than in the past. Rhodes went untargeted.
  • Limit Bears’ 3rd down conversions. The Vikings continue to allow only a 25% conversion rate on 3rd down after 5 games- incredibly low and still leading the league.
  • Rally with Case Keenum. Keenum may not be the most talented QB in the NFL, but he knows how to get guys going in the huddle, and the Vikings offense loves playing with him. You see it every time they have close up shots of the huddle, and from the Vikings players themselves. The Vikings have to take advantage and harness that chemistry. Going more up-tempo has worked consistently for the Vikings when they’ve used it. Pat Shurmur needs to take that page from Chip Kelly’s offense and use it more. Keenum finished 17/21 for 140 yards and a TD, and a 110.3 passer rating, in basically a half-game at QB.
  • Overcome the loss of Dalvin Cook. Latavius Murray had a few nice carries, but Jerick McKinnon seemed to move up the depth chart as the game progressed, ending the game with 95 yards on 16 carries - 5.9 yards/carry. McKinnon also led the Vikings in receiving yards, with 51 on 6 receptions.
  • Step up and get an ugly win, rather than suffer an ugly loss. Bradford literally hobbled the Vikings offense the entire first half, which helped breathe life into a pretty bad Bears team-riddled with injuries on both sides of the ball. Turnovers forced by the Vikings play-makers on defense - Everson Griffen and Harrison Smith - were the difference in the game. And Kai Forbath delivered.

What the Vikings Didn’t Do Well

  • Sam Bradford. The decision to play him, perhaps figuring he’d rally and play with some pain after he said he was feeling much better was a reasonable one. But they kept him in there too long. Two series too long, I’d say, given the circumstances. More on Bradford later.
  • Tight-End. Ok, Kyle Rudolph came out of witness protection and had a nice TD reception, along with a couple other good plays, but this was against a Bears defense missing like their 4 best linebackers. Rudolph looked slow - was slow - and just isn’t good enough. The most animated he was all night was in selling a key holding penalty late in the game. The Vikings need to bring back Bucky Hodges, and draft a TE next season. I like Rudolph, and I know the coaches do too, but he isn’t getting it done on the field.
  • Special teams punt coverage. Giving up a TD on a fake punt was a huge screw-up, and breathed life back into the Bears. Blown coverage, bad tackling -that whole play was bad from beginning to end.
  • Interior Offensive Line. They got blown up pretty well by Akiem Hicks and Company - mostly Pat Elflein and Nick Easton, but Joe Berger at least once too.
  • Downfield passing. Apart from the Rudolph TD, and the Michael Floyd reception, not much success - or attempts really - down the field passing for the Vikings against a Bears secondary that can be exploited at times. Diggs had only 4 yards receiving, and suffered from a groin injury much of the game. Thielen had only 34 yards receiving. Treadwell wasn’t targeted, despite playing a fair number of snaps. Michael Floyd had only one reception.

Other Observations

  • Play-calling and tempo. Both in this game and all previous games this season, the Vikings offense does best when playing up-tempo, with quick or no huddles. It seems often that the pace between plays often carries into the play itself - slower, plodding pace leads to slow-developing, sometimes seemingly telegraphed plays, while up-tempo pacing leads to fast moving, quick-hitting or quick strike plays that seem to catch the defense off-guard. Up-tempo may not be as effective if used all the time, but moving to a more up-tempo offense more often seems likely to help generate big plays and rhythm so important for a productive offense.
  • Sam Bradford and lack of leadership. It seems more clear since Bradford’s injury that he doesn’t really generate much enthusiasm or have much personal chemistry with the rest of the team. Players have respect for him and his ability, but at the same time he seems more aloof than a leader. As a result, he doesn’t seem to have the ability to rally the troops, or be the type of QB that guys really want to play for and get the most out of them. Obviously this is subjective, outside observation, but that’s not to say it’s not important. Good team chemistry between a QB and the team is important, as a QB is the leader on offense, and in the inevitable periods of adversity in a game, and during a season, having a QB that can help lead a team through it is an important intangible that can make a difference in the win/loss column. My guess is that with Bradford re-aggravating his knee injury, he won’t play again until after the bye-week. And if Case Keenum is playing well, he won’t replace him.
  • Vikings offense and defense both best in the NFC North in terms of yards per play and yards per play allowed after 5 games. Defense also leads in points per game allowed, but offense 3rd based on higher redzone conversion rates by Packers and Lions.


Which QB will play the most for the Vikings this season?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Sam Bradford
    (78 votes)
  • 71%
    Case Keenum
    (948 votes)
  • 22%
    Teddy Bridgewater
    (303 votes)
1329 votes total Vote Now