The Vikings season came down to the final week and a battle against the Chicago Bears. Needing a win or Philadelphia Eagles loss to Washington to qualify for the postseason, the Vikings got neither and saw their season conclude.
Here are five takeaways from the season-ending loss to Chicago.
1. Bears dominated the line of scrimmage
On both sides of the ball, Chicago played better on the line of scrimmage. It started early in the game, as Chicago marched 71 yards on six plays on its first possession. That series included a 42-yard burst from Jordan Howard, his longest run of the season. The Vikings offense didn't have the same explosion, as it gained only 11 yards on the first nine plays and finished the game with only 164 net yards and a per-play average of 3.2 yards. Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks was a menace for the Vikings, as usual, and it was too much to overcome.
2. Vikings didn't execute in critical areas, Chicago did
Chicago's offense performed well in critical areas, especially on a key drive in the second half on which it used 16 plays and over nine minutes to drive 75 yards and score a touchdown. On that drive, the Bears converted five 3rd downs thanks to Mitchell Trubisky scrambles and throws as well as Vikings penalties. The Bears offense converted eight of 14 (57.1%) 3rd downs on the NFL's No. 1 3rd down defense. Chicago was also excellent in the red zone and goal-to-go situations, converting three times in three attempts in both areas.
3. Diggs and Thielen set team record
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen each finished the season with 100+ receptions, becoming the first pair of Vikings teammates to accomplish that feat in team history. Diggs and Thielen also each had 1,000+ receiving yards, becoming the first Vikings duo to accomplish that feat since 2000. Diggs led the Vikings in receiving on the afternoon with eight receptions for 47 yards and the team's only touchdown of the day. The Diggs-Thielen duo was a bright spot this season for an offense that had an otherwise tumultuous season with lots of ups but too many downs.
4. Three penalties killed Vikings momentum too often
Chicago was penalized more often than the Vikings, but the penalties enforced against the Vikings were major moments of the game that negated positive developments for the Vikings. In the first half, Stephen Weatherly was called for roughing the passer on what would've been a 3rd-down stop and Mike Remmers was flagged for holding on a scramble for 1st down by Cousins. In the second half, Jayron Kearse was flagged for defensive holding on a 3rd-down play that resulted in a sack of Trubisky. Instead of the drive ending and the Vikings taking possession, the Bears drive was extended and they took advantage by scoring a touchdown to take an 11-point lead.
5. An interesting offseason begins for a team with high expectations for 2019
Sunday's season-ending loss will sting for a long time as a season full of promise concludes short of expectations. With the door closed on 2018, the Vikings will immediately turn their attention to 2019 and begin working to improve. With the talent assembled by the front office already, with the foundation laid by head coach Mike Zimmer and with players who consistently demonstrate toughness and fight, the organization will have high expectations once again next season.