CHICAGO – Jordan Hicks saw the football bounce, scooped it up and sprinted.
He didn't stop 'til he had 6.
Hicks' defensive touchdown gave the Vikings some extra breathing room and a spark of second-half energy en route to their 19-13 defeat of the Bears Sunday.
"I saw the ball pop out, and I just knew we had to get it. Hicks got it," outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum said postgame. "I just turned around, tried my best to block for him just a little bit, and he made a big play."
When starting QB Justin Fields left the game in the third quarter with an injury to his throwing hand, Tyson Bagent stepped in. On first-and-10 from the Minnesota 48 midway through the period, Josh Metellus got around tackle Larry Borom and made his way to Bagent, knocking the ball out.
Metellus had a feeling he'd have a chance there, and he made the most of it.
"It was a good call by Flo' (Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores)," he said. "Pretty much knew what they were gonna do to me, and I just had to beat my man … and I just wanted to make a game-changing play. I'm happy I could help the team.
"I tried to scoop it myself a couple times and I fell, but I heard somebody running, and I'm like, 'OK, grab it. Grab it! OK, you've got it now!' When [Jordan] picked it up, he looked like a little kid again," Metellus added with a grin. "He was running up the sideline. He was rolling. I appreciate him for that."
Hicks, 31, said the moment made him feel young again.
"I haven't been in the end zone since my rookie year. It's been a while," Hicks laughed. "It felt good."
The touchdown was the second of Hicks' career, the first being in 2015 when he returned an interception 67 yards for Philadelphia.
"Being around all these young guys, you want to prove yourself right and that you've still got it, that you're a leader," Hicks said. "They look to you like you've been there and done that. So you want to show them there's a reason I'm still here. It feels good."
Though Hicks could have opted to keep the football as a memento, he once again demonstrated his leadership by letting Metellus have it, instead.
"I told him that's my first strip sack, so I wanted to keep the ball. Him being a good vet, he gave it to me," Metellus said. "I appreciate him a lot. I love that guy."
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell awarded game balls to Hicks, Metellus and cornerback Byron Murphy, Jr., during his postgame locker room speech.
O'Connell noted the value Hicks adds to Minnesota's locker room, whether through his experience in the meeting rooms or performance on the field. The coaches' trust in Hicks is clear in that he wears the "green dot" helmet equipped with a headset to receive defensive calls from the sideline.
"Jordan has seen so much football. He's been so productive for a long time. He's our green dot," O'Connell said. "There's a lot going on within our defense, depending on the game plan, but what Jordan did today kind of rivaled what [Harrison Smith] did against the Panthers. It just felt like he was not going to be denied the chance to be the guy to go out there and respond.
"How he was on the sideline, all week in prep, I'm really happy with Jordan and proud of him as one of our core leaders, showing up the way he did today," O'Connell added.
The fumble recovery wasn't Hicks' only splash play of the day. He also nabbed an interception of Fields late in the second quarter, halting Chicago's drive that had advanced to the Minnesota 27. Hicks caught the pass at the 9 and returned it 14 yards.
The takeaway returned possession to the Vikings with 1:47 left in the half, and they made the most of it with a drive capped by Jordan Addison's 10-yard touchdown and a 12-6 lead at the break.
Fields left the game at the end of Chicago's first possession of the third quarter, but Minnesota's defense knew it couldn't let its guard down.
"We had never really seen him. We knew he was a runner, and we expected him to run the ball, but he was throwing the ball downfield," Hicks said of the rookie Bagent. "We knew they had the offense set and they were continuing to kind of do what they did, rhythm offense, run the ball, run the ball, get to third-and-short and try to move the chains."
The Vikings did allow Chicago to string together a decent drive halfway through the fourth quarter, and Bagent scored the team's sole touchdown on a 1-yard run.
At that point, Minnesota found itself once again with just a 6-point lead.
Minnesota's offense went three and out, and Chicago was on the move. A mix of Bagent passes and runs by D'Onta Foreman advanced the Bears to the Vikings 35.
Bagent threw a deep pass to DJ Moore on first-and-10, but Murphy made a play on the underthrown ball and came down with the pick.
"I've been saying all this time, 'I've gotta get one,' Murphy said of his first interception as a Viking. "I didn't wanna force anything, but it finally came today. I made the play, and it just felt good."
O'Connell emphasized again how happy he is to have Murphy in Minnesota.
"He's really assumed a heck of a role for us, not only defensively with what we do, but we ask him to play outside, we ask him to go inside in sub," O'Connell explained. "[His] leadership kind of reminiscent of a Jordan Hicks, as far as a guy that just continuously does his job.
"He's tough, dependable, and a great moment right there for him," O'Connell added.
The Vikings third takeaway of the afternoon returned the ball to the offense and sealed a much-needed victory for Minnesota (2-4).
The defense entered Week 6 intent on keeping Chicago's explosive plays to a minimum, and they largely succeeded in that.
Before he exited the game, Fields was 6-of-10 passing for 58 yards, one interception and a passer rating of 36.7. Bagent finished his NFL debut 10-of-14 passing for 83 yards and an interception with a passer rating of 56.5.
The Vikings limited DJ Moore to five catches for 51 yards and Darnell Mooney to 48 yards on two catches.
"As DBs, we wanted to stop the skill position guys. A guy like DJ Moore, who had eight receptions, 230 yards last week, and Darnell Mooney who's another quick, shifty guy in the slot – we knew we had to stop their skill positions from getting explosives, and I think we did a good job of that," Metellus said. "It was really just playing fast and keeping stuff in front of us."
Minnesota did get gouged a tad in the run game, giving up 162 yards on 36 carries. But Foreman was the Bears leading rusher with 65 yards on the ground.
Metellus acknowledged it sometimes is a little bit of "give and take" when trying to make a team one-dimensional.
"At the end of the day, we've gotta string together good plays. We've gotta force the offense to snap the ball over and over and over, and when we keep doing that, things like today – three turnovers – happen," he said.
The Vikings takeaways certainly gathered the most attention, and for good reason, but other big plays sprinkled throughout the afternoon were critical, as well.
Danielle Hunter showed up in a big way, sacking Fields twice and showing his athleticism when he chased the passer down the sideline.
Hunter finished the day with seven tackles, 2.0 sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.
Fields also was sacked by Wonnum, who took him down for a 7-yard loss on the first play of the game, and by Harrison Phillips.
O'Connell complimented Flores' "really good plan" against Fields.
"There was a little bit more hits and some success there in some of the wide-zone [running] game, [but] I thought Flo' and his staff adjusted really well. [Chris Rumph, Pat Hill, Mike Siravo] and those guys getting together and figuring out ways to limit the impact of that play moving forward, which was good," O'Connell said. "We forced some early third-and-longs, second-and-longs, and then it was … kind of on our terms after that point."
Sunday marked the Vikings first division game of the season. So while they understand they still have a hole to dig themselves out of, being 1-0 in the division is a building block.
"It feels great to start the 12-week season 1-0, especially in the division. First division game, especially on the road … and in an environment like this," Wonnum said. "It's good to have that first [division] 'dub' and get ourselves rolling and into a rhythm."
Hicks feels the Vikings defense is getting into a rhythm.
"It feels good to be part of a team that's finding an identity, finding our culture," Hicks said. "We're having fun out there. That's what you want to do."
Added Murphy: "This is my first rivalry game with this team, and it's a win. It's a great feeling. All these smiles in the locker room, all this energy here is good – so we've gotta keep that going."