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Reserves fall short but it’s on to the playoffs

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

When word broke that the Minnesota Vikings were going to rest a good portion of their starters against the Chicago Bears, this immediately had a preseason game feel for it. It made sense; the Vikings are locked in to the sixth seed, win or lose, and needlessly playing guys and risking injury when there’s much bigger fish to fry could become disastrous if a guy like Kirk Cousins or Danielle Hunter got hurt, for example.

So, we saw mostly second and third string guys take the Chicago Bears starters down to the final gun before falling 21-19. The first half was pretty boring and kind of what I expected when you play backups, but the second half became a fairly entertaining game, with some big plays and an exciting finish.

But win, lose, or tie, the result of the game didn’t change anything for the Vikings. They’re in the playoffs and will go on the road to either Seattle or New Orleans, depending on the outcome of the Sunday Night game between San Francisco and Seattle.

And honestly, right now nothing else matters, does it, Metallica?

So close no matter how far

Couldn’t be much more from the heart

Forever trusting who we are

And nothing else matters

The SMR that’s going to rest most of the starters to save them for next week follows.

Blue Chips

Eric Wilson, LB: I thought Wilson had a really good game. He led the team in tackles, had a sack, two tackles for loss, and added a QB hit for good measure.

Dan Bailey, K: Dan Bailey had to finish the day above 90% on field goal percentage to get a million dollar bonus, and he went 4/4 on the day, keeping the Vikings in the game on a day when most of their backups played.

Mike Boone, RB: Boone had the most productive day by any Vikings offensive player against the Bears in two years. Boone started the game with a 59 yard run, had 148 yards rushing on the afternoon, and put the Vikings in the lead with a short TD run in the fourth quarter.

Solid Investments

Holton Hill, CB: You know, there are about three times I game that I say ‘man, that was a nice play by Hill.’ I can’t recall what they were exactly, but it just felt like Hill had a pretty good game today.

Junk Bonds

Mike Boone, RB: The Bears scored 11 points in the first half and you could argue Boone was responsible for giving them all 11. After a 59 yard run on his first carry, he fumbled on his second. No, it wasn’t a great pitch from QB Sean Mannion, but he still should have handled the ball. On the Vikings second drive he bobbled a short pass that was intercepted. And finally, he got tackled in the end zone for a safety. That one is tough to pin on him, but listen, this makes my argument stronger so just don’t point it out in the comments and let me have this.

Sean Mannion, QB: I think we can all agree the Vikings need a new backup QB next year.


Buy: Resting a few injured starters. Like I said in the intro, resting some guys made sense from a practical standpoint. Win or lose, the Vikings playoff seeding wasn’t going to change, and who their opponent is will be determined by the outcome of other games. And it’s the NFL, injuries happen to good players every week. Had there been a serious injury in what amounted to a meaningless game, Mike Zimmer would have been ripped for it.

Sell: Resting a majority of the starters. I still would have played all the starters on offense, at least for awhile. I don’t mean this to be disrespectful to the reserves that played—they played hard, and the second team nearly pulled off what I consider to be an upset of the Bears starters. But the reserves aren’t playing next week, the starters that didn’t play today are. And the last time we saw the Vikings starters, particularly the offense, they looked pretty clueless against another playoff team. If they play next week like they played last week, there won’t be another game. And when they’ve played a playoff team this year (Packers twice, Eagles, Chiefs, Seahawks), the only game they played well in was the Eagles game.

I’m not feeling all that good about this team and an out of sync offense going on the road and performing well. I thought they could have used a few drives to help get some mojo back. I mean, we have a team that mostly doesn’t play well in big games, going on the road with a QB that mostly hasn’t played well in big games, to face an opponent that will be heavily favored, and the last meaningful action the offense had—against a playoff team, at home—they managed to get only seven first downs, a level of futility not seen since 1971.

Buy: Getting to the playoffs. Hey, the Vikes are in the playoffs though, and this is a good thing! They didn’t go last year, because getting there is hard. They are one of 12 teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl. You may scoff at running the table as the number six seed, but 10 other teams in the NFC would jump at the chance.

Sell: 0-4 against the Bears and Packers this year. But running the table as a six seed is incredibly difficult. And the reason they’re the six seed is simple: they didn’t take care of business in their own division. You could make the argument that the Vikings had a chance to win three of these games, and yes, I think the outcome of this Bears game is different if the Vikings played their starters. Still, though, if they had been able to handle their business in the division, they win the division and have at least a home playoff game if not a bye. Heck, going back to last year, the Vikings are 1-6-1 against the Packers and the Bears. Win one of those losses from 2018 or flip the tie to a win and they’re in the playoffs. Not being able to beat Green Bay or Chicago is the difference between division champions and a wildcard.

So, we wait out the Sunday Night game to determine who the Vikings will see in the wildcard round of the playoffs.