It certainly wasn’t pretty, but it was what the Minnesota Vikings needed in a key NFC North matchup.
Buoyed by the running of Jerick McKinnon and an outstanding backup performance by Case Keenum, the Vikings squeaked out a win over the Chicago Bears at their personal house of horrors, Soldier Field, by a final score of 20-17.
The scoring in this one opened up with, of all things, a safety. Sam Bradford dropped back to pass deep in Minnesota territory and, after holding the ball for a long time, was dropped in the end zone by Leonard Floyd. That gave the Bears the lead by a score of 2-0, and they were the only points of the first quarter of play.
Minnesota got a huge break towards the end of the second quarter, as Everson Griffen stormed in for a sack of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Linval Joseph at the Chicago 13-yard line. However, the Vikings could only manage a field goal, as Kai Forbath connected from 26 yards out to give Minnesota a 3-2 lead, and that’s how they went into halftime.
Minnesota got their first touchdown on their first drive of the third quarter, and it came courtesy of Case Keenum, who was put into the game for Sam Bradford at the end of the first half. Keenum led a 13-play, 75-yard drive and wrapped it up with a pass to a wide open Kyle Rudolph for a 13-yard touchdown. Kai Forbath added the extra point, and the Vikings had a 10-2 lead midway through the third quarter.
Chicago had an answer, however, on the next drive. Minnesota forced the Bears into a 4th-and-6 from the Minnesota 38-yard line, and the Bears lined up in a punt formation. Punter Pat O’Donnell then took the snap, and lofted a pass over the middle of the field to running back Benny Cunningham. Cunningham made Marcus Sherels miss, and Everson Griffen missed one as well as Cunningham went into the end zone. John Fox elected to go for one, and Connor Barth hit the extra point to make the score 10-9.
The Vikings got a big play on their next drive, though, to answer the Bears. Jerick McKinnon nearly fumbled away the kickoff return, but it bounced out of bounds. He made up for it a few plays later, however, as he took a handoff from Keenum and sprinted 58 yards for a touchdown for the purple. Forbath connected on his extra point, and the lead was back to eight at 17-9.
Chicago pulled even early in the fourth quarter, as Mitch Trubisky threw a pass into the end zone that was tipped by Vikings’ safety Andrew Sendejo. . .and wound up right in the hands of Bears’ tight end Zach Miller for Trubisky’s first NFL touchdown pass. The Bears then ran a trick play that resulted in a pitch to Trubisky for the two-point conversion, and we were tied at 17 with about 12 minutes remaining in the contest.
Just before the two-minute warning, the Bears had the ball deep in their own territory. Trubisky was intercepted by Harrison Smith, setting the Vikings up in Chicago territory at the 28-yard line. The Vikings got a key first down and forced the Bears to burn all their timeouts, setting up Kai Forbath for a 26-yard field goal attempt with 16 seconds remaining. He split the uprights and made the score 20-17.
That’s how it ended, with the Vikings getting a big win over an NFC North rival when they needed it the most.
Keenum was outstanding in relief of the injured Sam Bradford, who just didn’t have it in this one. He completed 17-of-21 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. Bradford, in his half of play, completed just 5-of-11 for 36 yards and was sacked four times.
The unexpected hero of this one was Jerick McKinnon, who carried the ball 16 times for 95 yards and the long 58-yard touchdown. He was also the Vikings’ leading receiver with 51 yards on six receptions. Latavius Murray had 31 yards on 12 carries on the evening.
As far as the other receivers, Kyle Rudolph had 45 yards and a touchdown on six catches. Adam Thielen had five catches for 34 yards, and the Bears. . .as well as a groin injury. . .limited Stefon Diggs to just one reception for four yards.
Minnesota moves to 3-2 and remains in a tie with Detroit for second place in the NFC North. They have a game against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium next week. Chicago falls to 1-4 and will travel east to take on the Baltimore Ravens next week.
The Minnesota Vikings hold on for a big NFC North victory at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football, winning by a score of 20-17. Thanks to everyone that got their coverage of this week’s game right here at The Daily Norseman!