MINNEAPOLIS — The brakes slammed hard on the Vikings roller-coaster season on Sunday when a 24-10 home loss to the Bears kept Minnesota from garnering a playoff spot for the third time in four seasons.
Pregame question: Could the Vikings take care of the business in their hands?
The Vikings wanted to handle their own business in regard to securing a playoff spot for the third time in four seasons.
Minnesota knew it was hosting Chicago and needed a win or tie against the NFC North Champion Bears or a loss/tie by Philadelphia at Washington.
The Vikings also knew that outside help can be quite fickle, and the Redskins were heavily depleted heading into Sunday's finale.
Had the Rams, who finished 13-3, defeated the Eagles in Week 15, or the Texans, who finished 11-5, won at Philadelphia in Week 16, the Minnesota wouldn't have been in the do-or-die predicament.
The Bears controlled the line of scrimmage on offense and defense, hogged the ball for more than 37 minutes and built leads of 13-0 and 21-10 midway through the second and fourth quarters.
The Vikings struggled from the coin toss, gaining 3 yards on three passes on their first possession, which lasted just 36 seconds.
After Chicago crisply scored a 6-yard touchdown on its sixth offensive snap, Minnesota netted 1 yard on its second possession, thanks to a sack of Kirk Cousins by Eddie Goldman on third-and-3. Jordan Howard rushed for 55 yards on his first three carries, getting gains of 7 and 42 before his first of two touchdowns.
The third Vikings possession netted seven yards before a punt, and the fourth lost nine yards.
Howard capped an 85-yard drive extended by a roughing-the-passer penalty against Stephen Weatherly with a 1-yard score to make it 13-0.
The Vikings rallied with a field goal on their final possession of the first half when Dan Bailey booted a 45-yarder.
The Vikings were able to stop the Bears on their opening possession of the third quarter and put together a 10-play, 92-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs that made it 13-10 with 1:51 remaining in the period.
Chicago owned the final 17:51 of the game by executing a 16-play drive that Tarik Cohen capped with a 3-yard touchdown. The score was followed with a 2-point conversion pass from Mitchell Trubisky to linebacker — yes, a linebacker — Nick Kwiatkoski.
That backbreaking possession included conversions of third-and-5 with a 12-yard Trubisky scramble, third-and-6 with a 16-yard pass to Javon Wims, third-and-10 with a defensive holding penalty on Jayron Kearse that negated a sack by Anthony Barr, third-and-6 with a 9-yard pass to Trey Burton and third-and-7 with a 9-yard pass to Wims.
It was an ironic ripsaw by the Bears against a Vikings squad that entered the game allowing opponents to convert just 28.2 percent of their third downs.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on the slow start:
"Didn't play good enough to win, really, in most of the areas; we didn't get a first down until midway through the second quarter," Zimmer said. "[We] had four three-and-outs to start the game on offense, and they had a big run. Defensively, we missed a gap."
Zimmer on the third-down defensive struggles:
"We had a holding penalty. We had a roughing the quarterback," Zimmer said. "We had — they threw a long ball on Holton Hill one time. Threw another completion on him, I believe. And then, honestly, we kind of ran out of defensive backs today."
Cousins on the disappointing end to the season:
"I don't know what the scale of disappointment is, but we're disappointed. We'd love to be in the playoffs. And I said it all year, I love our team, love our group of guys. And we weren't ready for it to end. But unfortunately, it's over for this year."
Thielen on the Vikings missing their opportunity:
"You win and you're in. We couldn't have asked for a better opportunity," Thielen said. "But we didn't capitalize, and now we'll be at home next week."
Barr on the Vikings not earning their way into the playoffs:
"The game we played today is not a playoff performance," Barr said. "You can't go out there and play the way we did and expect to make the playoffs. The way we played, we don't deserve to be in the playoffs."
Weatherly on the play that drew a roughing-the-passer penalty:
"I know that I came through and I hit him. I mean I tried to catch him and keep him up. Every week, Coach Zimmer in the team meeting puts up the percent chance the opponent scores on the drive when we have a defensive penalty. I was like, 'Damn, it extended the drive,' and I believe the ball was incomplete. I take responsibility for that. I probably should've just faded off or just fell on the ground."
Anthony Harris on the defense not being able to get off the field:
"We had a lot of opportunities in the game to get on the field on third down or have a chance to pin them and flip the field position," Harris said. "But we weren't able to do it and get it done. I believe on that long drive they made some plays and were able to keep the drive alive and keep the clock running. Eventually, they got another touchdown."
Sheldon Richardson on the Vikings not executing:
"Crucial penalties hurt us a lot," Richardson said. "Kudos to their offense and defense. They came out to play, and we didn't."
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.