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Vikings at Bears: Five Game-Changing Plays

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Looking back at the five most important plays from the Vikings’ win over the Bears.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Harrison Smith’s interception set up the game-winning score.
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears get together at Soldier Field in primetime, it’s never your typical ho-hum Monday Night Football game. The latest iteration was especially zany. We had a number two overall draft pick making his NFL debut. We had a safety to open up the scoring. We had an obviously hobbled quarterback get benched before halftime. We had a halftime score that looked more like a baseball game after 5 innings. We had a fake punt touchdown. We had a tipped interception that ended up as a touchdown. We had a two-point conversion that looked more like a Harlem Globetrotters fast break. We had several big plays called back by Jerome Boger’s flag-happy crew. We had the offense finally come to life after handing the reins over to the team’s third choice quarterback and third choice running back.

And perhaps most atypical of all, we had the Vikings actually come out with a win.

Even though we could easily expand this list to 15, let’s take our weekly look at the five most impactful plays of the Vikings’ crazy victory on Monday night.

Play 1: Bears ball, 1st & 10 at the Minnesota 42. Second quarter, 14:30 remaining. Jo.Howard left end for 42 yards, TOUCHDOWN NULLIFIED by Penalty. PENALTY on CHI-M.Wheaton, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at MIN 39.

Our first play is a play that didn’t count. Jordan Howard appeared to score on a long run up the left sideline, only to have it called back on an incredibly questionable holding call against Markus Wheaton.

With the Vikings offense in complete disarray for most of the first half and the Bears dominating both field position and time of possession, the game could have got out of hand in a hurry if this score stood.

The play is also important because it set the tone for Jerome Boger’s refereeing crew, who called 17 accepted penalties and butchered the flow of the game throughout the night. It got to the point where I was surprised when the “FLAG” graphic didn’t pop up at the end of a play. This was a fairly sloppy game made worse by sloppy officiating.

Play 2: Vikings ball, 3rd & 7 at the Minnesota 38. Second quarter, 10:47 remaining. (Shotgun) S.Bradford sacked at MIN 31 for -7 yards (A.Hicks).

With all the wild plays that happened Monday, why would I include a simple sack that didn’t directly affect the score? Because the fact that Sam Bradford was even out there at this point of the game was ridiculous.

The decision by Mike Zimmer and the coaching staff to start Bradford was defensible; he was medically cleared to play and said he was good to go. In theory, he gave the Vikings the best chance to win. And though it turned out otherwise, at least Mike Zimmer had more answers about Bradford’s future. Michael Rand of the Star Tribune perfectly explained how Zimmer’s old-school approach meant that he was going to see what he had in Bradford one way or another.

But after those first three drives, it was painfully obvious that Bradford wasn’t even close to 100%. He was barely planting on his left foot and sailing passes all over the place. The pass before this sack should have been intercepted. Every time they showed Bradford’s face on the broadcast, it looked like he was starring in a hostage video. Yet he was still out there, going down at even the threat of contact. Getting “sacked” by Akiem Hicks here should have been the absolute final straw for Zimmer to pull the plug. Instead, they trotted Bradford out there for three more drives, culminating in another sack where the hobbled quarterback simply laid down on the ground after getting bumped by the backside of his own center. If this game would have been against a team of higher quality, the stubborn decision to keep Bradford in the game would have likely cost the Vikings a chance at the win.

Play 3: Bears ball, 1st & 10 at the Chicago 20. Second quarter, 2:34 remaining. (Shotgun) M.Trubisky sacked at CHI 13 for -7 yards (E.Griffen). FUMBLES (E.Griffen), RECOVERED by MIN-L.Joseph at CHI 13. L.Joseph to CHI 13 for no gain (C.Leno).

Mitchell Trubisky, meet Everson Griffen. He will be terrorizing you twice a year for the foreseeable future.

This was classic Griff—explode off the snap, bend around the edge, and make a big play. The only way the Vikings were going to score in the first half was off of the defense, and Griffen came up huge when his team needed it most. The Vikings had only 55 yards of offense in the first half yet still took a lead into the locker room because of this play.

Play 4: Vikings ball, 2nd & 5 at the Minnesota 42. Third quarter, 3:42 remaining. J.McKinnon right end for 58 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

After Case Keenum threw a touchdown to Kyle Rudolph, leading to one of the best touchdown celebrations ever:

And the Bears caught the Vikings’ punt return team with their pants down:

It was suddenly 10-9 late in the third quarter. The game was very much in the balance and the Vikings needed to take control. Enter Jerick McKinnon.

Jet’s 58-yard scamper was the perfect reward for how hard he ran on Monday night. The diminutive McKinnon took several monstrous hits throughout the game, yet kept bouncing back to the tune of 146 total yards. McKinnon led the Vikings in rushing and receiving, single-handedly out-gaining Chicago’s dangerous duo of Howard and Tarik Cohen by 63 yards. With Dalvin Cook out for the year and Latavius Murray struggling to find his niche in the offense, McKinnon’s best game of the season couldn’t have come at a better time. (Make sure to take note of the excellent second level blocking by Pat Elflein, Nick Easton, and Michael Floyd on this play as well.)

Play 5: Bears ball, 1st & 10 on the Chicago 10. Fourth quarter, 2:32 remaining. (Shotgun) M.Trubisky pass short right intended for Z.Miller INTERCEPTED by H.Smith at CHI 22. H.Smith to CHI 28 for -6 yards (K.Wright).

Even after McKinnon’s touchdown gave the appearance of the Vikings being in control of the game, they were still playing at Soldier Field, their personal house of horrors. The Bears tied the game up thanks to Griffen extending a drive by jumping offside, followed by a would-be Andrew Sendejo interception turning into a Zach Miller touchdown...

...followed by the most creative two-point conversion I have ever seen. (Even though the Buccaneers apparently did the same thing in 2000.)

The Vikings were forced to punt with under three minutes remaining, and all those old Soldier Field demons seemed to be poised to strike. I could already hear Jon Gruden fawning over Mitchell Trubisky leading a fourth-quarter comeback in his first game. Once again, Minnesota was going to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory in Chicago.

But then Harrison Smith straight up canceled Mitch-A-Palooza.

From there, Kai Forbath hit a chip shot from the left hash (because those always go in, right Vikings fans?) and the rest is history. This one won’t get any style points, but a win is a win is a win. Vikings fans will take victories at Solder Field however they can get them.


As always, we welcome your input on which of these plays had the most impact in the poll below. If you think we missed a few that should have been included, please add them in the comments.

Poll

What was the most important play of the Vikings’ win over the Bears?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Howard’s nullified touchdown
    (164 votes)
  • 0%
    Bradford "sacked" by Hicks
    (5 votes)
  • 11%
    Griffen’s strip sack
    (147 votes)
  • 11%
    McKinnon’s touchdown
    (143 votes)
  • 62%
    Smith’s interception
    (774 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (comment below)
    (12 votes)
1245 votes total Vote Now