Jerick McKinnon had just 26 total rushing yards through four games entering Monday night's matchup in Chicago.
The Vikings speedy running back ran for almost four times that amount against the Bears, injecting life into a Vikings offense that needed a boost on national television.
Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com wrote that McKinnon, who rushed for 95 yards and a score on 16 carries, looked like his old self in the Windy City.
Over the first two years of his career, the McKinnon was an explosive back with big-play ability and a knack for catching the ball out of the backfield. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry between 2014 and 2015 – sometimes as the feature back, sometimes spelling Adrian Peterson.
But last season he struggled behind a battered offensive line, then there were only a few spurts of effectiveness this year. From the start of 2016 until Week 4, McKinnon was averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and 5.8 per reception. The Vikings' loss to Detroit was his worst career game as he rushed twice for zero yards and dropped a key pass on third down.
Talk about redemption.
McKinnon scored his first rushing touchdown of the season, and also totaled six catches for 51 yards.
Coller said the performance was vintage McKinnon.
He created the game's biggest play, a 58-yard touchdown run, by patiently waiting for a hole on an outside pitch, then racing past the Bears second level into the end zone.
"[Nick] Easton had a great block," McKinnon said. "I saw him coming, and he cut somebody, [Laquon] Treadwell came off the backside to spring me. It was a great collective effort. And I think we got them off tempo. It's just building off each other, playing with effort and finding a way to make plays."
It was shades of the old Jerick – the one that ripped off a 55-yard gain against the Falcons in 2014 or scampered for a 68-yard touchdown against New York in 2015. The one that caught four passes for 76 yards against the Bears in '15. The one the Vikings will need to carry them in the backfield with Cook out.
Griffen's sack sparks momentum for Vikings
Harrison Smith and Everson Griffen are a pair of Pro Bowl players who have a knack for stepping up when the moment calls for it.
That was the case Monday night in Chicago. Each forced turnovers that helped the Vikings come away with a 20-17 win over the Bears.
Mark Craig of the Star Tribune wrote that while each of the turnovers was key, Griffen's strip-sack of Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky jump-started the team to a victory.
Smith's essentially won the game. But it was Griffen's strip sack that woke this team from its lengthy slumber to start the game.
Craig noted that the Vikings first five possessions were two three-and-outs, a safety and two more punts.
Griffen's play, however, enabled Minnesota to get points in spite of only gaining five yards on its sixth possession.* *"Everson has such great reaction time at the snap of the ball," said left end Brian Robison, who was on the field when Griffen got around [Charles Leno, Jr.], reached out his right hand and stripped the ball.
"A lot of times, the officials think he's offsides when he's not. That's how quick and fast he is."
Griffen's big play helped give the Vikings the lead before halftime. He has at least 1 sack in all five games in 2017, and is tied for third in the NFL with 6.0 sacks.