CHICAGO – The Chicago Bears have lost a lot of players ahead of Monday night’s game. Then they lost their cool.
Several key penalties from exhausted Bears and other mistakes helped Vikings overcome a lackluster record in a 17-9 win at Soldier Field.
The Bears entered the game with 14 players on the COVID-19 reserve roster, including all of their starting minors, and they called eight players from the training squad on Monday. But while on paper they might look like a new team from the 1987 strike season, they gave the Vikings what they could.
Chicago beat the Vikings 370 yards to 193, lost just 10-3 in the third quarter and looks like they have a great chance to get back into the game. But when the Vikings faced third and 18th from their 15-yard line, after Dalvin Cook ran five yards, the Bears were judged as a personal foul by Teese Tabor’s illegal block.
Subsequently, this drive was increased due to an unnecessary penalty for the rudeness of midfielder Travis Gipson. Kirk Cousins then threw a 7-yard pass to touch down Ikhmir Smith-Marsett from 5:51 to the end of the third quarter, taking a solid 17-3 lead.
On their next possession, the Bears were charged with another personal foul, this time against Theven Jenkins for unnecessary rudeness. Jenkins left after a defensive end to DJ Wonnum when he thought he had pushed Bears quarterback Justin Fields to the ground and out of bounds after the whistle in the previous game.
The Bears (4-10), who received a pointless touchdown pass 19 yards from Fields to Jesper Horsted in the final game of the game, ended the game with eight penalties for 86 yards. They also lost three fumbles, blocked a field goal and made a pass in the end zone.
Horsted, an NFL sophomore, is a former Roseville high school football star who has had a stellar college career at Princeton.
Vikings (7-7) will win. The victory brought them to seventh place in the NFC playoff race, and seven teams will get into it. They will drop to eighth place if Washington beat Philadelphia on Tuesday, as Washington has a tiebreak.
Although the Bears were exhausted in the secondary segment, Cousins had a second wobbly game in a row. Cousins, who was also mediocre in the 36-28 win over Pittsburgh on December 9, completed 12 of 24 assists for 87 yards, his lowest ever starting ever with an interception, although he did two touchdowns.
The Vikings led 7-0 on Cousins’ 12-yard pass in the middle of the first quarter to Justin Jefferson. Jefferson, who won his second Pro Bowl title before the game, caught just four passes for 47 yards.
The Chicago pass presented Cousins with problems throughout the game. He was fired four times.
At the start of the second quarter, the Vikings took a 10-0 lead on a 37-yard field hammered by Greg Joseph. The Bears narrowed the gap to 10-3 after a 34-yard shot from Cairo Santos with 1:33 left in half. Santos had a chance to get even closer to Chicago, but the Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson helped in his 49-yard attempt with 28 seconds left in the inning.
Taking the lead, the Vikings in the second half tried to keep the ball on the ground for the most part. Cook finished 89 yards on 28 strikes to break the 1,000 yard mark for the third straight season. Cook, now at 1,067 yards, is only the fourth player in Minnesota history to spend three seasons in 1,000 yards, joining Adrian Peterson (seven), Robert Smith (four) and Chuck Foreman (three).
The Vikings also got 33 yards on three carries thanks to running back rookie Ken Nwang. In the third quarter, the Vikings ran 19 and 11 yards, giving them a 17-3 lead.
On defense, the Vikings attacked and fired Bears quarterback Justin Fields three times, all done by DJ Wonnum. Fields completed 26 of 39 assists for 289 yards and he lost to fumble.
The Vikings were also wrong, with seven penalties at 54 yards. Cousins intercepted the ball in the second quarter after Jefferson was knocked down, but it was a ball he could possibly have avoided. And in the third quarter, Jordan Berry saved a 17-yard punt.
And the Vikings also lost, but had their own ill-conceived penalty from 9:30 to the end of the game when midfielder Eric Kendricks was kicked out due to helmet-to-helmet contact on Fields’ slide. But Minnesota were up 17-3 at the time, and Bears’ tight end Jimmy Graham was soon unable to cope with a Fields pass.