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Lunchbreak: Vikings Offense 'Gaining Steam' Headed Down the Stretch

The Vikings have now won three games in a row, all against NFC North opponents, to improve to 4-5 on the season.

Following Minnesota's Monday Night Football victory at Chicago,'s Grant Gordon highlighted the team's offense in his “What We Learned” recap of the game. Gordon wrote:

[For] the first time in his career, [Kirk] Cousins was standing tall on a Monday evening. For whatever reason, the football gods frowned down upon Cousins as he began his career 0-9 on Monday nights, but that monkey has been removed from the Vikings QB's back. Against an excellent Bears defensive effort, Cousins was efficient to the tune of 292 yards, two scores, just the one turnover and tallied a 100.7 [passer] rating. In comparison to the Bears offensive output, Cousins and his charges looked phenomenal. And, frankly, against such a spirited defensive effort, they might well have been. For all the credit – and most deservedly so – that Dalvin Cook gets, Cousins is and has to be a big part of the Vikings (4-5) roaring back into relevance with a third-straight win.

Gordon also pointed to Adam Thielen, who scored both of the Vikings touchdowns at Soldier Field. In Minnesota's past two wins against the Packers and Lions, Thielen totaled just five catches for 65 yards in contests dominated by the Vikings run game.

But against a Chicago defense that limited Cook to under 100 yards on the ground (96 on 30 hard-fought carries), Thielen played an important role.

Having strung a pair of victories together in Weeks 8-9, the Vikings did so without much from Thielen, who had previously hauled in five TDs over a four-week span. Previous to Monday, Thielen had just one score in 11 games against the Bears. That was all changed on Monday. Beginning with a sensational left-handed grab to open the scoring, Thielen finished with just four catches for 43 yards but had two touchdowns, once again reaffirming his nose for the end zone. Thielen is now tied for the league-lead with nine touchdowns. In many ways, the belief that Cook has been carrying the Vikings is true. However, with Thielen and a sensational rookie (Justin Jefferson) all rounding into stellar form, the Vikings offense is gaining steam amid a winning streak.

Vikings receive B+ grade for road win over Bears

After weathering such a rocky start, the Vikings have earned plenty of praise from pundits across the league over the past three weeks.

CBS Sports' John Breech gave Minnesota an A+ grade for its wins over Green Bay and Detroit, and he doled out a B+ to the Vikings for their 19-13 defeat of Chicago.

Breech also noted Cousins' first career Monday Night Football win and commended the quarterback’s overall performance.

With the Bears holding Dalvin Cook under 100 yards, it was up to Cousins to get the Vikings offense going, and he was up to the challenge. Cousins threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears secondary had no answers for Justin Jefferson (135 yards), who continues to look like one of the best rookies in the NFL. One thing that will thrill [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer is how well his defense played. Going into the game, the Vikings had surrendered the third-most yards in the NFL, but they absolutely shut down the Bears, holding them to just 131 total yards. Sure, it was just the Bears, but the defensive performance was impressive no matter how you spin it. The game marked the first time since 2006 that the Vikings have held a team under 150 yards of offense.

As for the Bears, Breech gave them a C+ for their first outing in which Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor took over play-calling duties. Head Coach Matt Nagy previously had called Chicago's offensive plays.

Breech said that "things didn't get any better" for the team in its third straight loss.

The Bears totaled just 14 yards in a disastrous second-half where their only sign of life came from Cordarrelle Patterson, who returned a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown. The only reason this grade isn't worse is because the Bears defense kept things close by forcing two turnovers and holding Dalvin Cook under 100 yards rushing.

View photos of the Vikings in "Big Head Mode" following the 19-13 victory over the Bears at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football.

Cousins is PFF's highest-graded QB under pressure

Cousins is accustomed to receiving outside criticism, but the quarterback has played extremely well over the past three games to help Minnesota to its division win streak.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus recently highlighted the NFL’s top quarterbacks by various situations, and Cousins came in at No. 1 in "under pressure" scenarios with a PFF grade of 68.9. Seth Galina pointed out that Ryan Fitzpatrick is actually just a bit more efficient than Cousins in the category, but Fitzpatrick is no longer the starting QB in Miami. Galina wrote:

Ryan Fitzpatrick is slightly higher in this category, but since he now resides on the bench for Miami, we'll go with Cousins. He has made five big-time throws to just two turnover-worthy plays when feeling the heat, completing 49 of his 91 attempts in the process.

Galina added that Cousins has historically thrived primarily "in the best of conditions" but that his play while pressured has "taken a turn for the better" this season.