In the city of Michael Air Jordan, it was the Vikings pair of Jordans who soared.
Jordan Hicks recorded an interception deep in Minnesota territory late in the second quarter before the Vikings drove 77 yards to finish that possession with a 10-yard touchdown to Jordan Addison.
Hicks' big day wasn't done. In the third quarter, he scooped a fumble forced by Josh Metellus and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown.
Minnesota (2-4) will host San Francisco (5-1) at 7:15 p.m. (CT) on Monday Night Football in Week 7.
Before then, however, here's a deeper look at Week 6.
Next Gen Stats
Pressuring the pocket
The Vikings turned up the heat on Justin Fields and Tyson Bagent, who entered the game in the third quarter as an injury replacement.
According to Next Gen Stats, Fields was pressured on a season-high 64.7 percent of his dropbacks, despite his quickest time to throw (2.66 seconds) so far in 2023.
Fields was 3-for-6 for 10 yards with the interception by Hicks when throwing under pressure.
Bagent was blitzed on 86.7 percent of his dropbacks in his NFL debut. He completed 10 of 11 passes for 83 yards against the blitz before throwing the deep pass that was picked off by Byron Murphy, Jr.
Inside the Addison touchdown
Kirk Cousins and Addison connected on a touchdown for the fourth time this season when the rookie receiver found a hole in Chicago's coverage.
According to Next Gen Stats, the pass had a completion probability of 62.3 percent, even though Addison enjoyed 3.5 yards of separation. Cousins was able to withstand pressure by the Bears and took 3.04 seconds.
Cousins and four offensive linemen — LT Christian Darrisaw, C Garrett Bradbury, RG Ed Ingram and RT Brian O'Neill — played all 72 snaps.
LG Ezra Cleveland played 47 snaps before leaving the game with a foot injury. He was replaced by Dalton Risner.
K.J. Osborn led all offensive skill players for a second consecutive week. He handled 53 snaps, followed by 49 for Addison. Brandon Powell was in for 34 snaps in Minnesota's first game without Justin Jefferson.
Running back Alexander Mattison played 45 snaps, compared to nine for Cam Akers.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson played 45 snaps. Josh Oliver was in for 22 on offense, and Johnny Mundt played seven.
After they were signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster last week, Trishton Jackson played four offensive snaps, and N'Keal Harry played one.
Three defensive players — linebacker Jordan Hicks and safeties Harrison Smith and Camryn Bynum — played all 66 defensive snaps. Cornerback Byron Murphy, Jr., was in for 65, and Metellus handled 59 on defense, in addition to 11 on special teams.
Outside linebackers Danielle Hunter (56) and D.J. Wonnum (47) played more than 71 percent of the team's defensive snaps, volume that possibly increased after Marcus Davenport suffered an ankle injury on his 17th snap.
From the Inbox
Good to see the defense step up to help win the game after what was the strangest intentional grounding call I've ever seen. Seems like the defense is improving each week. Also, Jordan Addison continues to impress. Hope the team can build on the success.
— The view from down south from Kevin in Mississippi
We'll start things off with Kevin, as it's been a bit since we've heard from him.
I really am still trying to understand how Cousins was flagged for intentional grounding when the pass went toward C.J. Ham, who had lined up as a fullback in an offset I-formation. The Vikings designed the play to send Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson and K.J. Wright down the field, and the trio pulled Bears defenders past the 31-yard line (or beyond), with Ham setting up at the 18. He'd have had 13 yards of running room at a minimum if Cousins would have waited a tick longer to release the football. Cousins did have Jack Sanborn approaching with his arms up, so he put the ball over the linebacker, but it was too high and too quick for Ham to gather.
O'Connell was asked about the call after the game and said the following:
"Yeah, that was kind of, anticipated something like that, kind of had talked through it and just didn't get the blocking done with pressure right at those two backs right there. It wasn't great execution there. Kirk was trying not to take a sack in that moment, and C.J., his assignment had ended up being the pressure guy. At that point, you would love for him to make himself available to catch the ball. I would argue that that's a debatable conclusion they came to, but that is not my job to publicly argue that conclusion."
Cousins was shown by the TV cameras telling referee Brad Allen that the ball was thrown to his fullback, but Allen told him "upstairs said there was nobody in the area."
Intentional grounding carries the yardage penalty and loss of down, so it became a second-and-20, but the Vikings were able to get the stop they needed with Murphy's interception, and the offense was able to run out the final 1:51.
Why keep trying to trade Hunter? He's proven to be his old self. We need him to help the young [players] coming in next year. Caleb [Williams] is not a guaranteed — just remember what Eli [Manning] did when drafted, if I remember correctly.
— Robert Hernandez
I'm not saying the Vikings won't decide to make any moves whatsoever, but I do know they have a couple of more games before the trade deadline and can be 4-4, 3-5 or 2-6 (barring ties) at the end of the month.
In the case of Hunter, he's on a one-year contract and is playing at an incredibly high level, so I understand why teams and people would mention him as a player of interest.
The NFL's ever-increasing promotion of the draft keeps adding to the belief that it will offer immediate and notable cures, but sometimes picks don't work out. Sometimes picks take longer to fully pan out (compare Jared Goff's early years to now, for instance). Eli wound up more than working out for the Giants, but that was a wild situation.
Ty Chandler seems to have dropped off the radar. In recent weeks in conversations about the Vikings running game/running backs on television and in articles Ty Chandler's name is not even mentioned. In a very limited number of snaps, we have seen flashes of speed, agility and power. Any clue as to why he is not even in the conversation about the Vikings running game?
— Paul Ryals in Stanchfield, Minnesota
I was surprised to see that Chandler played zero offensive snaps. He's been the primary kickoff returner with Kene Nwangwu on Injured Reserve but has had few opportunities in that aspect of the game because of so many touchbacks.
Nwangwu is making good progress, so it will be interesting to see what happens at running back once he returns.
Maybe there were specific attack plans for why Minnesota used the personnel it used, maybe there were some other plays they wanted to get to but were unable to convert third downs?
With the way our offensive line can't protect, God help Cousins next Monday. I would guess [Nick] Bosa will have a career day. And I am so sick of O'Connell saying every week we need to improve. Nothing like stating the obvious. A big improvement would come from him giving up calling the plays. He is so predictable and loves to use the 1-yard dump-off passes, what a waste of a down. When is he going to admit that Mattison isn't the answer at running back and turn it over to Akers and see what he can do.
— Mike B. in Burlington, Kentucky
The Bears wound up recording two sacks and four quarterback hits, and there are multiple grades from external sources that have the Vikings offensive line trending up. I do believe the group has played better in recent weeks.
The nature of the position is one bad play can define the rest of the game, and there will be plenty of dangers presented by Bosa and a feisty 49ers pass rush.
The Vikings have a system where they can call a run play and pass play, and Cousins has the opportunity to "can" as in "trash can" a play and audible to the other, so it's sometimes hard to fully have an accurate picture of the original play call.
I do also believe the coaching staff continues to evaluate decisions and personnel.
I know there wasn't much fluidity on our offensive side of the ball, but a win is a win, and now let's rack up some more W's.
— Chris O'Neill in the UK
The best way to make Sunday's game mean more is to win more games. It wasn't flashy, but sometimes you have to win the game you're in. Several scores across the league were low.
Why aren't we moving the pocket anymore? You're giving the defense to pin their ears back and nail the QB. We seem so sluggish. What's up with that?
— Sue Larson
As alluded to a bit earlier, the Vikings will have to find a way to mitigate the amount and intensity of pressure that San Francisco's defense can generate.
Perhaps that will involve moving the pocket from time to time.
One thing is for certain, playing sluggishly won't be a good recipe against that group.
Defense definitively took a step forward as far as coming together and jelling, and time will tell, barring any major setbacks, injuries. The offense is there for the taking. I believe O'Connell has turn play calling to Wes Philips.
— Dean Osmonson
There's probably some calls that O'Connell would like back after every game, but there's also some execution lapses on the game film each week. The Vikings must translate the positive impressions of plays in practices to the games to help turn this season around.
A loss would have been so much more valuable.
Seriously, a rebuild is about five years overdue. Trade older veterans for draft capital. Get the cap in order, and let's lose enough to get some young stars.
We already messed up beating Carolina. The season's over. Rationally most people should understand this. Even if we turn it around, we are not a contender so look to the future.
— Paul Diercks
The season is still 11 more games and is going to last until mid-January at the very least.
The only thing ever guaranteed by tanking is a losing record. Sure, the pick position improves, but there is no guarantee to hit, even on high picks sometimes.
Ultimately, only one team will win the Super Bowl, and one other will go. The Vikings had high expectations at the start of the season, and they haven't been fulfilled yet.
General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah expressed disdain for tanking and continues to emphasize a competitive rebuild, which has included some short-term salary cap solutions on the way to longer-term fixes. He's also added draft capital for 2024, which will allow the Vikings more wiggle room for trades during next year's draft.
I am sorry. The Vikings defense bailed out the offense this game. With a comfortable lead, [O'Connell] again refused to put the pedal to the metal and put the Bears out of striking distance. Our offense was slow, methodical (in a bad way), and stodgy.
The times where we have been successful on offense are when we are playing with tempo. It puts the defense at a disadvantage. It opens up running lanes and creates more opportunities for play-action.
When you have an offensive line as porous as the Vikings (they are VERY bad), you have to do something to put the opposing defense on their heels to be successful.
Just haven't seen any dynamic play-calling from [O'Connell]. It looks like the close games that we won last year were what many experts expressed 'fluke' wins.
More tempo, open up the playbook, and put the pedal to the metal.
All the best,
(Diehard Vikings Fan)
Hicks' fumble return touchdown gave the Vikings a 90-percent win probability midway through the third quarter, according to Next Gen Stats.
While the game tightened up and cautiously protecting the lead likely wasn't too enjoyable from homes, bars or Soldier Field, I also understand a bit of playing a bit closer to the vest to avoid any steep declines in the likelihood of getting a win, especially if there are some things the coach would like to save for when Minnesota hosts Chicago later this season.
A big part of the 2022 success was "winning on the margins." The Vikings have to keep trying to do that — and most importantly, winning the turnover margin — in future games.