Looking to come out of the bye and continue building momentum by extending their winning streak to three games, the Vikings took on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday and could not do enough to overcome miscues on all sides of the ball. The result was a 21-13 loss, a particularly tough one to take given how tough the team battled to stay in the game and challenge the home team late in the contest.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday's loss to Chicago.
1. Offense Couldn't Explode or SustainThe Vikings lost the time of possession battle by more than 17 minutes on Sunday and Chicago ran 74 offensive plays to Minnesota's 46, deficits that were largely the product of the offense's inability to register explosive plays and sustain drives. Outside of a 23-yard run by Jerick McKinnon, the Vikings had just one play of over 10 yards in the first three quarters and for the entire game had just three offensive gains of 20+ yards. The longest gain of the day wasn't even an offensive play – it was the fake punt executed in the 1st quarter that resulted in a 48-yard gain for S Andrew Sendejo. QB Teddy Bridgewater and Co. converted just two of 11 3rd downs and they had zero drives that produced more than three 1st downs; in the 2nd and 3rd quarters combined, the Vikings ran just 23 plays and tallied only two 1st downs.
2. Defense Struggled on 3rd DownAs tough a time as the offense had of sustaining drives, the Vikings defense had just as rough a time getting the Bears offense off the field in crucial situations. Chicago converted 10 of 17 (59%) 3rd down tries and two of three (67%) attempts on 4th down, consistently extending drives to tax the Vikings defense, keep field position in their favor and score 21 points. Missed tackles, blown assignments and soft coverage, among other issues, popped up during the Vikings 3rd down woes on defense, and those issues must be corrected quickly with an even more explosive Green Bay Packers offense coming to town next weekend.
View images from the week 11 matchup at Soldier Field between the Vikings and Bears.
3. Weird Things Keep Happening at Soldier FieldA lot of unusual things seems to happen when the Vikings play at Soldier Field, and in fact the place has been a downright house of horrors for the Vikings over the last decade-plus (the Vikings have won at Soldier Field just once in the last 13 seasons). Sunday was no different. The Vikings attempted (and converted) a fake punt for the first time since 2004, two of the League's most reliable place kickers both missed field goals, the in-stadium game clocks malfunctioned all afternoon and there was a curious decision by the officials to charge the Vikings a timeout despite the fact that a play the Vikings challenged was overturned.
4. Bears Were Better in the Trenches
The NFL is a coach and quarterback league, but there also no question that games are often times decided in the trenches. The team that plays better up front typically has an advantage when all is said and done. Fittingly, the Bears were the better team in the trenches during their victory on Sunday. On offense, Chicago averaged 4.5 yards per carry, blocked well enough to produce a 100-yard rusher and did not allow a sack. On defense, the Bears surrendered just 48 yards rushing on 15 carries, sacked Bridgewater twice and collected five tackles for loss.
5. Vikings Strayed from Running GameThe Bears had given up 391 yards rushing over the previous three games entering Sunday, but the Vikings were unable to keep that trend going. It's hard not to wonder, though, if they could've indeed taken advantage of this weakness in Chicago's defense if they had persisted. The Vikings finished the game with just 15 offensive runs, and McKinnon had just one rush in the entire second half. Granted, the Vikings didn't run many offensive plays at all in the game, but even still the lack of rushing attempts against a defense that appeared particularly weak in trying to defend the run seems regrettable.