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The Vikings prevailed against the Bears Sunday with a strong defensive effort that secured three takeaways and limited Chicago's passing combination of Justin Fields (and then Tyson Bagent) to DJ Moore.
Jordan Hicks had a monstrous day, intercepting a pass deep in Minnesota territory and then returning a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown. Hicks got his hands on one more football after the game when Head Coach Kevin O'Connell presented game balls to him, cornerback Byron Murphy, Jr., and safety Josh Metellus, who forced the fumble that Hicks scooped and scored.
That lift was appreciated — some could easily argue required — on a day when the offense mustered one touchdown in its first game without superstar receiver Justin Jefferson.
The offense lost Ezra Cleveland to a foot injury during the game. He was replaced by Dalton Risner at left guard.
Marcus Davenport suffered an ankle injury early in the game. Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum did a great job of affecting Bears QBs at multiple points during the game.
As a reminder, we'll continue to work in fans' emails in our Rehash series on days after games and in Final Thoughts, which usually posts on Fridays.
Very happy to get back on the winning side. I was very negative last week after the loss, so I am going to be more positive, even though I am concerned about some things.
Great to see our receivers do better, [Jordan] Addison and [Justin] Jefferson (when he gets back) could be the best duo since Moss and Carter. [K.J.] Osborn had a great game. Would've liked to have seen a little more out of the run game. Maybe bring [Cam] Akers in a little sooner? With all that said, reality is we almost lost to an undrafted rookie QB. We made a play at the end but could have easily gone the other way. Should have put the game away with the rookie in there and made a statement. Skol!
— Joel J.
The unpretty wins are a lot more valuable in the NFL than the glam losses.
Addison's 10-yard touchdown was a true bright spot that can be encouraging as the team proceeds. It was clean late-in-half execution for the entire drive, protection gave Kirk Cousins time, and Addison found the right spot in the coverage for his fourth TD in just six games.
The yards per carry were certainly disappointing for the Vikings. Alexander Mattison rushed 18 times for 44 yards. Akers gained 8 on his lone carry.
I thought Bagent played pretty well until the over-aggressive attempt to Moore that Murphy picked off.
I am surprised we won. Not an impressive victory, à la Panthers, but we will take it. No offense the entire second half? The defense gives up a scoring drive to undrafted rookie? Our second half offense literally keeps the Bears in the game? Here are my 3 Ups and 3 Downs for the game:
1. Defense controlling the Bears effectively early — no TDs and forced multiple punts.
2. Nice defense heading into halftime after the late first half turnover. Great pressure on Fields and a great interception by Hicks. And then we finally matched that late stop with a nicely executed final drive of the first half for a TD with multiple catches by [T.J. Hockenson]. But of course, we allow the extra point to be blocked?
3. Strip sack and TD score on the Bears undrafted rookie QB. Nicely done!
1. In the first half, the offense cannot score a TD until late. Another key pass dropped by Hock'? And of course, the offense can do absolutely nothing effective heading into halftime at the 3-minute mark — we cannot get a first down on second-and-2? Yet another turnover? I am getting tired of this same old song.
2. Continuing the trend of third quarter woes for the offense: First, they go three-and-out to start the second half. A disappointing wasted opportunity to set the tone for the second half. Then pinned deep, they go three-and-out after a 2-yard loss on a first down run, another dropped pass by Mattison on second down and a dump off to Hockenson so we can punt from further out than the 1-yard line. Good teams can get a first down when starting at their own 5. And our last drive in the third quarter resulted in one first down and a missed long field goal.
Good teams dominate the third quarter offensively with multiple scoring drives.
3. The entire second half offense was just embarrassing. Only 2 first downs the entire half. No points. No time-consuming drive. Heck, they barely got the first down needed to end the game. Poor offensive coaching, poor play calling, poor execution. Kevin O'Connell is not as good a coach or play caller as he thinks he is.
Too many punts and too many missed opportunities. Overall, a weak uninspiring performance. We struggled to beat the Bears, that's never good. Not optimistic about facing the Niners.
— Respectfully Jeff L.
The interception by Hicks was caught at the Minnesota 9-yard line and returned to the 23, giving the Vikings almost normal starting field position. The team then drove 77 yards in 1:35, highlighted by catches of 21 and 12 yards by T.J. Hockenson.
It was a good example of complementary football that's been hard to find early this season.
The third quarter start, however, kept the Vikings from dominating the middle eight minutes of the game. Minnesota had a chance to "double dip" with a score before and immediately after halftime but went three-and-out.
I think field position on the next drive probably impacted decisions. The Vikings took over at their 5, lost 2 on the run by Mattison and then had a drop on a checkdown to him. Cousins found Hockenson for a gain of 8 on third-and-14 to create a bit of breathing room. A 5-yard penalty on the Bears for a neutral zone infraction helped the Vikings flip the field with a 45-yard net punt by Ryan Wright.
It seemed like the offense was starting to get back in rhythm on its next drive and with a 19-6 lead, but a holding penalty against Hockenson on third-and-2 upended that possession and forced a 57-yard field goal attempt by Greg Joseph, who drilled kicks from 53 and 51 yards for Minnesota's first six points.
I'm not sure that many Browns fans were optimistic heading into Sunday's game against the 49ers, but Cleveland wound up upsetting San Francisco as a nearly double-digit home underdog.
View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings - win over the Bears in Week 6 of the 2023 season.
It's nice to get a win, but if they had been playing ANYBODY but the Bears today, the Vikings would have got their butts whipped for sure.
When you can barely squeak out a win against one of the worst teams in the NFL who had only 5 starters left in the game in the second half, the rest of the season looks pretty bleak for the Vikings.
— Curt in Valdosta, Georgia
Each game presents its own set of circumstances. When the schedule comes out, the hidden element is when you play each team and how healthy the rosters are for both teams.
It wasn't the worst timing for Minnesota to wind up playing Chicago in its first game without Jefferson, because the Vikings and Bears were in a lower-scoring game. Maybe Jefferson would have made a bigger difference on third downs.
But credit Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores and that side of the ball for a really great plan and execution to limit the explosive plays that helped the Bears defeat the Commanders in Week 5.
View game action photos from he Vikings at Bears Week 6 at Soldier Field.
I was listening to the radio, and it sounds like the defense came up with the big plays when they needed to. They are making progress. The offense needs to help them and have more sustained drives so our defense is not on the field so long.
— Gerald Goblirsch
I don't know anyone who would trade the defense scoring in order for the offense to take the field and try to advance, but a defensive TD can affect time of possession a bit since the defense has to go right back out on the field.
Beyond that, however, Gerald is correct for the need to sustain drives to help with that.
Minnesota held the ball for just 24:49 and went 0-for-3 on third down in the third and fourth quarters, negating an opportunity to win comfortably.
The Bears were letting up over 50-percent third-down conversions for the season, yet I don't recall the Vikings throwing beyond the sticks. Every third down seems to be a checkdown. The Vikings scored one offensive TD against what is universally considered a porous defense. It's just not good enough. Either [O'Connell] is too conservative in his play calling, or Cousins is too scared to be consistently aggressive. Something has to change.
A win is a win, but other than a handful of plays, that was a terrible effort, and certainly doesn't provide much confidence that the season can be saved. Very disappointing.
— Mike D. in Lombard, Illinois
A win's a win, but offensively that was about as ugly as it gets. Moved the ball a little in the first half, then bubkis. The second half troubles continue. Three-and-out to start the third, and nothing from there. It's like we take a nap at the half and sleepwalk through the rest of the game. Zero fire offensively. Defensively we stepped up, had some takeaways finally and got lucky in the end against a rookie. Next week will be different for sure.
— J.B. Brunet
I definitely get the desire to move the chains on third downs, but every once in a while, throwing shy of the sticks can serve a purpose. I'm thinking of a third-and-12 pass to Brandon Powell that gained 4 and set up Joseph's 51-yard field goal and the 8-yard pass to Hockenson on third-and-14 with the Vikings backed up at their goal line.
One decision netted three points, and the other helped Minnesota out of precarious field position. There were other third-and-longs that the Vikings need to try to avoid facing in the future, especially with a pass rush group like San Francisco's on deck.
It's not uncommon for having a 13-point lead midway through the third quarter to affect some decision making, especially against a division team that the Vikings will need to defeat again later this season.
Skol! Much needed win! Defense and special teams played well. I am really concerned about this offense. And it's not just because J.J.'s out. It seems like it's been out of sync all season. I wrote after the first game about the importance of playing the starters in the preseason. It seems, a lot of the times, that we are a step behind and sometimes just getting beat physically. Turnovers and penalties are more-often-than-not mental mistakes, of course coming at the worst possible times. Is it O-line? Kirk can't stand back there and wait for someone to come open. He needs plays that allow him to get the ball out of his hand quicker. Allow the playmakers to do their thing. Might also improve the run game.
— Sparky in Yankton, South Dakota
I always look forward to O'Connell's day-after-game press conference because he has the benefit of watching the film as opposed to trying to quickly diagnose what he noticed while also trying to stay a step or two ahead of an opponent.
O'Connell noted postgame that the Bears seemed to play more single-high safety than they've done against the Vikings recently.
"Clearly a willingness to send some pressures, DB pressures, different linebacker pressures," O'Connell said. "We practiced against a lot of those looks. When you're calling some play-passes and trying to get the ball down the field to activate some matchups or attack some voided zones.
"You've got to give the quarterback time, and it was kind of a revolving door of a missed assignment here from some of our more reliable players, and our guys are excited to get the win but our offense will be hungry to go back to work and make sure we rectify some of those things, because honestly with the way Kirk was throwing it today, it could have been a much, much bigger day," he added. "But you've got to give Coach [Matt Eberflus] and his staff credit for doing some of those things that slowed us down. We just couldn't make that one third-down play in the second half to really get a drive going."
Note: This email was sent Saturday before Sunday's game.
Yes, our too-many giveaways have been the single biggest problem this season. But to me, perhaps the worst was the first play of the Kansas City game. It was exactly a great call that got well more than first down yardage, and not from an expected player (Josh Oliver).
And at the end, he failed to do what I am sure was coached: when you've just gotten a good run and will shortly run into tacklers, put two hands on the ball and don't worry about anything but keeping it secure. He didn't do it. We know the rest.
[Patrick] Mahomes, after the Chiefs had decided to get the second-half kickoff, now had less than 50 yards and a dramatic takeaway when it should have been the defense of KC worrying about what we'd do next. We know the rest.
I noted one other thing that I think wasn't so noted but was very good. It looked to me that when there were some first half penalties on the Chiefs, that that might have been the classic idea of chippy play designed to get one or more of our guys 15 in a retaliation. We didn't bite. That's a really good sign.
We have, coming up, three out of four games we should win. Not having Jefferson hurts, but I'm convinced we have plenty enough talent to beat those three teams. (The fourth is San Francisco, and they're so far the best in the league). If we do, we're back in the hunt, especially because our schedule later is favorable, mostly.
And our injury list is short compared with the Bears.
We'll find out a lot tomorrow (I think we'll win), and I don't see any reason we shouldn't have some optimism.
Thanks as usual!
Brad Lewis in Schenectady, New York
Even though Brad's email references some elements heading into the Bears game, I wanted to include.
There's really not many ways you can draw up a start against the Chiefs to go worse than receiving the kickoff, fumbling on the first play and setting up a short field in a game where the goal is to reduce possessions for the other team.
Oliver was definitely remorseful, and he bounced back by making the required block on the fake punt later in the game. He'll be coached up again going forward, and I'm sure continue to contribute in positive ways.
I hadn't honestly thought about a couple of the penalties the Chiefs committed as attempting to draw a retaliation penalty, but I guess that could be possible. It seemed like they wanted to make sure they got some shots in to try to rough up Jefferson and try to knock him off his game.
The 2-4 start through six games is less than ideal, but managing the rest of the season in small chunks — with composure — is going to be important.