The Vikings finished the regular season in style, defeating the Chicago Bears 23-10 at U.S. Bank Stadium to win their 13th game and become the second-winningest regular season team in franchise history.
Here are 7 takeaways from Sunday's win over Chicago.
1. Two wins in one day
The Vikings entered Sunday capable of securing a first-round bye with any one of four potential outcomes – a Carolina loss, a Los Angeles Rams win, a New Orleans Saints win or a win of their own over Chicago. The three teams who could've helped the Vikings didn't kick off until after the Vikings game concluded, but the Vikings made sure they weren't going to be reliant on any help by taking care of Chicago and securing the bye on their own.
2. Vikings took control with a fast start
The Vikings defense allowed just one 1st down in its first three series and the offense scored two touchdowns in its first three possessions, and that fast start allowed the Vikings to take command of the game. At one point in the game, the Vikings offense had 116 yards and 11 1st downs on 23 plays while the Bears had only 38 yards and one 1st down on 10 plays. Chicago's offense surrendered a safety and didn't put up any points on their own accord until a Mike Nugent 55-yard field goal with 8:22 to play in the 4th quarter.
3. Defense flexed its muscle versus Bears offense
Chicago didn't quit and went down fighting late in the 4th quarter. They had the ball inside the Minnesota 5 and were threatening to pull to within six points with just over four minutes to play. Ultimately, though, the best defense in the NFL flexed its muscle and held Mitch Trubisky and Co. out of the end zone. Trailing by 13 with 4:09 to play, Chicago had eight snaps from inside the Minnesota 12, including six inside the 5, but could not reach paydirt. For the game, the Bears were one of 12 (8%) on 3rd down, averaged 3.8 yards per play, had only 30 yards rushing and didn't get into Vikings territory until the last play of the 3rd quarter.
4. Shurmur keeps Bears defense off-balance with personnel usage
Dealing with adversity and adjusting on the fly are tasks every coach of every team must do every season. But it seems as if Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur has found as many ways to overcome countless obstacles as any play caller. Starting center Pat Elflein was out on Sunday, Nick Easton went on the Reserve/Injured list earlier in the week and tight end Kyle Rudolph was limited with an injury. So Shurmur slid Joe Berger over to center, he kicked Mike Remmers inside to right guard and he used reserve rookie offensive tackle Aviante Collins as a tackle eligible. Shurmur also kept a stingy Bears defense off-balance by asking Case Keenum to spread 21 completions to seven different receivers and by giving two running backs 12+ carries. It resulted in great offensive balance with 36 runs compared to 29 passing attempts, two receivers with 60+ receiving yards (Stefon Diggs – 65 yards and one touchdown; Adam Thielen 61 yards) and a time of possession advantage of almost 12 minutes.
5. Ryan Quigley completed an outstanding regular season
No one wants their team to punt and so consequently no one really likes to brag about their punter. But the Vikings have a punter who deserves praise. Ryan Quigley just completed a season in which he had zero touchbacks, the first such season in Vikings history. Quigley landed five of his eight punts on Sunday inside the 20, with one of them helping lead to a safety by the Vikings defense. For the season, Quigley finishes with 29 punts inside the 20 and has been an outstanding complement to a staunch defense.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Chicago Bears in the last game of 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
6. Awful field position made life even tougher for Chicago
Thanks in part to Quigley's performance as well as the Vikings defense and kickoff coverage groups, the Vikings benefited from great field position and the Bears suffered from awful field position. Chicago started beyond their own 25 just twice – their last two possessions of the game. They started inside their own 12 four consecutive times and five times overall. For the game, Chicago's average starting field position was their own 20 and their average starting field position after a kickoff was their own 24.
7. Murray was money when it counted
Remember in 2016 when the Vikings struggled to run the ball efficiently in short-yardage and goal line situations? That isn't happening this season, and Latavius Murray is a big reason why. The offensive line deserves its due, as well, and Murray was solid running behind that group, especially near the goal line. Murray had two one-yard plunges for touchdowns and finished the game with 111 yards on 20 carries.