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Monday Morning Mailbag: More Ups Than Downs for Vikings Vs. Bears

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The Vikings became the first NFL team to win a London Game and follow with a victory in the week immediately after by topping the Bears 29-22 on Sunday.

The victory improved the team to 4-1 on the season with a 3-0 mark in division games, which were all at home because of a scheduling quirk that hadn't happened since 2006. The Vikings won't play another NFC North game until December in Detroit and won't see the Packers or Bears again until January.

Kirk Cousins made key conversions on the go-ahead drive after a hot start, and Cameron Dantzler, Sr., picked an opportune time for Minnesota’s only takeaway of the game. The Vikings felt like they had the wind at their backs before a major shift but had enough in the tank to execute their third fourth-quarter comeback in a row.

On to the questions (as a reminder, we'll update with more Monday).

Great game. Great result. Disappointed in the entire third quarter, but we won. Here are my three ups and three downs for the game.


1. Three TD drives in the first half. Sustained and well-executed scoring drives. Very nicely done.

2. The double-pass play from Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson to Dalvin Cook. Called at the right time, well-executed and it worked. Amazing design since the Bears collapsed on Jefferson thinking it was a wide receiver screen left, but it was really screen right to Cook. Genius design.

3. The defense in the fourth quarter and especially the game-winning takeaway.

View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings 29-22 win over the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on Oct. 9.


1. The entire third quarter — weak offense and weak defense. The Vikings worked very hard AGAIN to keep their rival in the game. Losing the third quarter again required a comeback. This must change.

2. The end of the first half. Let's work hard to keep the Bears in the game by giving up a cheap TD at the end of the half and missing our own FG at the end of the half.

3. Two missed FGs. Inconsistent kicker performance.

— Jeff Ludwig

Starting here with Jeff, who emails colleagues Lindsey Young, Sam Thiel and myself after every game with a similar format.

Jeff's format, win or lose, usually highlights some good points and identifies some areas for improvement, which is not dissimilar likely from the conversations that occur when the team gathers the day after a game to watch film.

Three touchdown drives on the first three possessions of the game is about as good as it gets.

The third one involved the razzle dazzle double pass with Cousins taking the snap and throwing a lateral to Jefferson, who then showed his arm for the first time in 2022 with a throwback to Cook. The play picked up 23 yards on a third-and-10.

The defense locked things down in the key moment, with Dantzler stripping and securing the football from former teammate Ihmir Smith-Marsette to send the offense to victory formation.

One of my observations was how bad the third quarter was for the Vikings after such a great first half.

The Bears converted third-and-10 with a 23-yard pass to Cole Kmet on their touchdown drive to start the third quarter and managed their way out of a third-and-12 with an 8-yard pass to Kmet and a 7-yard scramble by Justin Fields on the way to a field goal.

In between, the Vikings had a 51-yard field goal blocked.

Although Joseph had missed from 53 to end the first half, the block likely wasn't on him but on the protection.

The "cheap TD" Jeff mentioned capped a 50-yard drive that originated from a bad punt and penalty on special teams that was followed by a quick 39-yard pass from Fields to Darnell Mooney.

It was a lapse of complementary football for sure.

The Vikings have now been outscored 33-6 in third quarters this season, but they've topped opponents 37-14 in fourth quarters.

I know Greg Joseph is coming off a Special Teams Player of the Week award, but the fact is he's a very unreliable kicker. Even after making five FGs against the Saints, he missed an extra point that could have cost the Vikings a victory. And, while 5-for-5 last week, he's a combined 0-for-4 against the Lions and Bears. It's not good enough. A win is a win is a win, and I shouldn't complain about a 4-1 start, but as in any profession, if there's a weak link, it should be addressed.

Go Vikings!

— Mike Dugo

I'm not too concerned about the day Joseph—or the special teams unit—seemed to have against Chicago one week after being a huge part of Minnesota's win over New Orleans.

As Mike points out, Greg is 0-for-4 against Detroit and Chicago, but both kicks against the Lions were from 56, and both tries against the Bears were from 50-plus.

Again, I'm not sure that one that is missed because it is blocked necessarily falls on the kicker.

Extra points from 33 yards are no longer gimme putts, but Greg is 11-for-12 on those.

The Minnesota Vikings are playing like a team with no consistency.

They are hot and cold offensively and defensively — a true Jekyll and Hyde team. It has been a nail bitter the past three games and could very easily be 1-4. They keep playing like this and they won't fare well if they make the playoffs. However, the owners, coaches, players and fans are not seeing all the inconsistencies on both sides of the ball. True, they have gotten breaks and are 4-1, but a true fan who knows football can see there are problems in Viking land. The big question is can they figure out the issues before they self destruct.. I still see them as 9-8 team maybe 10-7 at best.

— Bill K suffering Vikings fan since 1965

Bill is correct in that Minnesota's 4-1 record could be 1-4, but what we do know is that when the past three games have been hanging in the balance, an array of players have stepped up to help lift the team to victories.

I think everyone in the organization can be critical while enjoying a 4-1 record.

There are five teams in the NFL with a 4-1 record or better as of this post (Kansas City can also improve to 4-1 with a win against Las Vegas on Monday Night Football).

Here is a quote from Kevin O'Connell's opening statement in his Sunday media availability:

"I thought across the board, our team continues to show levels of grit and resiliency that should bode well for us. Don't necessarily think we found that four quarters of consistent ball that we're looking for, but as we've learned, it's not easy to do in the NFL against teams with different scheme variations and a competitiveness."

It's plausible for a team to finish 9-8 or 10-7 after a 4-1 start (the 2016 Vikings finished 8-8 after opening 5-0), but that would involve going 5-7 or 6-6 the rest of the season.

There's so much football between now and then and so many things that could happen.

I think the emphasis for the Vikings this week will be trying to get to 5-1 next week ahead of their bye.

With the new coaching staff, I figured it would take 6 to 8 games before the players feel comfortable with the new systems on both sides of the ball. I expect they'll play faster the more comfortable they get. The receivers said early on they like the freedom they have. That means Kirk has to see the same thing as the receivers. That takes time. I like your thoughts.

— Jim in Dickinson, North Dakota

Jim had sent this in last Tuesday. It was kind of prescient.

I wrote about Cousins saying he felt the wind was at the team's back because of the game plan, scheme, calls and tempo. All of those elements are signs of time on task and an intent with helping every player become the best version of himself.

I didn't include the following quote from Cousins, but I did find it an interesting way for the QB to explain his growing relationship with this offense and staff:

"We're developing. I think we're getting there. I would tell you that after being in a system for three-ish years, three different play callers but a similar system, I'm not where I was at the end of last season in that old system. But we're developing and we're getting there, and I'm excited about that continued growth, and we have to keep showing that. We've got to get to the bye and look back and feel like we are every week taking another step towards that synergy. He certainly is in my corner, and I think that makes for a great help as a quarterback."

I just turned 76 years old, and I've been a fan since 1961. I grew up in Minnesota.

My heart may not last through these close games like this — those field goals at the end of the games.

It's just too hard on me. Please let's get way ahead in the games, so it's an easily cruise win from now on.

— Gill

Gill sent this message earlier in the week, as well. The Vikings obliged for almost an entire half before the Bears clawed their way into a lead with 19 consecutive points.

I know these games can be grueling in your living rooms, the seats at U.S. Bank Stadium and even the press box, but what we have seen so far is that the 2022 Vikings have not flinched when it's been time to go win a football game. That's a good quality in a league where 15 of 16 games in Week 4 and several more in Week 5 were within one score at one point in the fourth quarter.

The questions below and comments were added after the initial post for today's p.m. edition.

A good start to the season, and continued success. It seems that the team is energized with a new attitude towards believing in each other. A 17-game schedule is going to take its toll on every team, but I am concerned with the physicality that we are playing, too. Do you think that the 2022 Minnesota Vikings are more physical than last year? A better question might be to ask what do you hear the rest of the league is saying about the Vikings?


— Larry Lujan in Las Vegas, Nevada

Wholistically, for starters the new coaching staff and leadership of the health and performance department has been incredibly mindful of player usage/avoiding overuse in order to try to have each player at his optimal best for game days.

Their experience with helping the Rams win Super Bowl LVI last year provides ample understanding of how to try to manage for 17 games and hopefully three or four in the postseason.

The Vikings have had enough in the tank to finish their past three games in the fourth quarter. That includes on short rest (because of Monday Night Football) against a really physical Lions team and executing the plan for traveling to and from London for wins against the Saints and Bears.

As far as an individual physicality, Christian Darrisaw is really coming into his own in his second season after his rookie year was delayed by a lingering college injury. Here's one play.

One play should not define a game for an offensive or defensive lineman, but there's a heaping helping of handling an opponent. Darrisaw appeared to make multiple winning blocks in the run game and pass game that were technically sound. His pairing with Ezra Cleveland on the left side is an underrated aspect fans could get a little more excited about.

There was a ton of excitement about our potential to get after the quarterback this season, especially with the addition of Za'Darius Smith and a (hopefully) healthy Danielle Hunter. While Z is used to playing the stand-up edge rusher position, Hunter has never done it until this year. Over the first four games of the season our pass rush feels like it has been nearly non-existent. Is it possible that Hunter is much less effective standing up than he is with his hand on the ground? I do see him being moved around, and at times he does have his hand on the ground. Are there any stats for what percentage of the time he has his hand on the ground vs. standing up, and does this have an impact on his effectiveness?

— Josh Sween in Portage, Wisconsin

Josh's email was sent before Sunday's game against the Bears.

Hunter has dabbled a bit in standing up in previous years. Back in training camp he mentioned he expected this season would have elements of how Minnesota used him in Week 2 at Arizona last season. That was a three-sack day against a mobile QB.

Hunter's sacks have been fewer and farther between so far this season, with him recording his second of the campaign against Chicago.

I don't know there's a big enough sample size to compare hand on the ground vs. standing up, but I like Josh's attention to detail and think it's something to keep an eye on going forward.

In case you didn't see or hear, Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell was asked about Hunter last week.

"One thing, just with our whole rush team, you saw them in the Green Bay game, you know, because we separated. But we haven't separated, and when you're playing teams that have wildcat running backs and [mobile] quarterbacks and those kinds – it's harder to get off and get rushing and get a rhythm. That goes for our whole rush team.

"Two games ago [against the Lions], I was thinking he was beating guys so fast, and the ball's coming out [faster], but every guy that's ever made that transition, the first month looks about like that. That's pretty normal.

"There's a getting used to this role. Very, very normal. Very normal. But we're very glad to have him, OK? Let's make that clear," Donatell added.

Jared Goff's average time to throw was 3.09 seconds in Week 3; Andy Dalton's was 2.69 seconds in Week 4. Justin Fields averaged 2.86 seconds Sunday.

The Vikings have scripted plays right out of the gate. Excellent plays. Why do the plays change for the second half? It seems to be a pattern we start out fast and blow leads.

— Sue Larson

Appreciate the question from Sue. I tried to relay some reasons the Vikings opened so successfully against the Bears before hitting some doldrums in the third quarter.

The Vikings have scored touchdowns on their opening possessions in Week 1, Week 4 and Week 5.

The success on the opening drives can be attributed to coaches devising a game plan to specifically attack an opponent and to the players for executing on the way to the end zone.

Minnesota improved on that even more against Chicago with touchdowns on its first three possessions, racking up 232 yards in that stretch.

O'Connell mentioned the Bears shifting their defensive philosophy as the game progressed with more of a split-safety look. Credit Chicago a bit for making an adjustment and executing it, and for limiting Minnesota to seven plays in the third quarter.

We've seen opportunities for this team to improve on what it does when playing with a lead in the past two weeks.

For the first time this season the Vikings held the opposition to under 100 yards against a Bears team that was doing almost nothing but running. Seems like all the criticism is about giving up passing yards. I'm pleased they handled the run for the first time all season.

— Mike Griffith

Will our defense ever stop giving up so many points every game?

— Devin Burgard

I think Mike's email is the only one I've seen that had a hat tip to Minnesota's run defense, which had deservedly been the subject of some criticisms through Weeks 1-4.

The Vikings limited the Bears to 3.3 per carry, almost 2 full yards below what they had averaged in their first four games.

The offense deserves some credit for almost a reversal of what complementary football has meant around these parts in recent years, but the defense should get some true laurels for bottle-necking David Montgomery (20 yards on 12 carries) and Khalil Herbert (11 yards on four carries).

Montgomery did find the end zone on a 9-yard run at the end of the first half that sparked Chicago's comeback, and Fields rushed eight times for 47 yards. He had a 52-yard scramble for a touchdown erased by a block in the back penalty that helped spring him.

As for Devin's email, the Vikings rank 14th in scoring defense (20.4 points allowed per game) and haven't allowed any team to score more than 25 so far. That's an average improvement of almost five points per game compared to the entirety of 2021 and more than nine points per game better than 2020.

Three of Chicago's five scoring drives (a touchdown and two field goals) ended possessions that started at the Bears 41-yard line or better because of a punt, a missed field goal and an interception.

The creativity coupled with a dash of occasional daring (when, of course, it succeeds) is much more interesting than same old same old.

— Vince Williams in Dubuque, Iowa (formerly of Minneapolis from 1961-64)

Pretty sure what Vince is referring to includes the double pass from Cousins to Jefferson to Cook for the 23-yard gain on third-and-10 and possibly the flea flicker before the tight end screen to Johnny Mundt that wound up gaining 2 because of an impressive open-field tackle by Kyler Gordon.

O'Connell was hoping for a bit more out of that one.

It's not a one-man game. Cousins has to start spreading the ball around more, utilizing all the talent he has at his disposal.

Instead of relaxing after they jump in front, the defense has to bring it, not relax in a zone like everyone else does. Each one of these players are capable of shining, just turn them loose and stop relying on just three players for a win.

— Juan Aviles

It's hard for me to fault Cousins for finding the open man, particularly if Jefferson is that player and in space.

Jefferson averaged a whopping 4.91 yards of separation, catching all 10 passes thrown his way for 138 yards in the first half.

The question is how can the Vikings respond when teams do more to take away that option. Jefferson added two more catches for 16 yards on three targets in the second half.

Four teammates finished the game with at least three receptions.

Five different players caught a pass, and three players recorded a rush (including Cousins) during Minnesota's 17-play go-ahead drive.

What is the Vikings plan for stopping or maintaining running QBs, in regard to implementing their new defensive scheme?

— Matt Swedberg, Oslo, Norway (formerly of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota)

Hello in Norway.

Don't know if you could see on the television, but late in the game, after being burned by some Fields runs, the Vikings brought in rookie linebacker Brian Asamoah II as somewhat of a QB "spy."

Asamoah showed sideline-to-sideline speed during the preseason and has been contributing on special teams. He's a likely candidate for any future QB "spy" roles the Vikings might need.

After preseason and five games, when do you think they will put it together??

— Greg Olimb

The Vikes are 4-1, and every week, most of the comments from the fans are critical of how they played on Sunday/Monday. Let's not forget the shortened preseason and new system installed. The fact is, most games in the NFL are close, as the players are all true professionals and any team on any given day can get beat. This all goes to show how a little luck is always needed for a team to make it to the Super Bowl. Last year we didn't catch any breaks, but this year we are, so c'mon Vikings fans, give the team a little slack! It's a long season and there will be ups and downs, but with the talent we have, I think that if the team can get to the playoffs and remain healthy, they have as good of a chance as anybody to make a run.

— Mike in Oklahoma (Vikings fan since 1969 — SKOL)

Lifetime Viking fan, although it's been a roller-coaster season so far, I do see some positive changes.

1. Week 1: Easy to get "up" for the Packers and a well-played game

2. Ill-prepared for Philly. Did not realize how good [Jalen] Hurts was.

3. Down 14 points … previous teams would have folded like a cheap suit.

4. The dreaded double doink would have been from our kicker. LUCKY BREAK, which You need in this league … it's about time we got one!

5. Great start but then fell asleep and let the Bears back into game. Falling behind 22-21 would have killed previous teams. Should have won 35-10; need killer mentality.

— Bruce in Gilbert, Arizona

Joining these three takes from Greg, Mike and Bruce.

I'd remind Greg that most starters didn't play in the preseason, and I'm of the notion that figuring things out while continuing to stack wins can only help.

Mike's positioning is thinking for the long haul. Anyone remember the Rams lost five games in the regular season last year, including three in a row to go winless in November?

L.A. rebounded by winning five of six to close the regular season and then all four in the playoffs.

I'm not saying the 2022 Vikings are destined to make or win the Super Bowl — or even the playoffs yet. There's way too much football to go.

Bruce's succinct summary of the season so far sums things up pretty well. I think the two double-digit comebacks against Detroit have helped fuel a belief that has helped in each of the past two weeks when things got dicey.

*Miami is looking to do the Vikings, the way New York did Green Bay. *

— Sandy Hawkins

We'll have to keep an eye on Miami's quarterback status. The Dolphins opened 3-0 but have dropped the past two, suffering injuries to quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa (against Buffalo in Week 3 and at Cincinnati in Week 4) and Teddy Bridgewater (on their opening offensive play of Week 5).

Skylar Thompson, a 2022 seventh-round pick out of Kansas State, relieved Bridgewater. He completed 19 of 33 passes for 166 yards with an interception for a passer rating of 58.4.

The Dolphins only trailed 19-17 entering the fourth quarter last week before the Jets broke the game open with two touchdowns in the span of nine seconds.

Regardless of how experienced or inexperienced Miami is at the position, the Dolphins have plenty of talent and are not to be taken lightly. Most NFL teams fit into that category in my book.

They'll also be looking to return to the win column.

The Giants, meanwhile, are 4-1. New York has secured wins in the final two minutes (against Tennessee) and four minutes (against Carolina), as well as Sunday's impressive comeback from a 20-10 halftime deficit for a 27-22 win against Green Bay in London.