EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings closed a frustrating 2021 season by defeating the Bears 31-17 by closing the game on a 31-3 run with long touchdown passes and a pick-six.
The victory turned out to be the final one in the tenures of General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer, as the Vikings announced the decision to part ways with Spielman and Zimmer Monday morning.
Here's a deeper dive at some "next-day stats" with an eye on the ever-increasing number of Next Gen Stats. References to rankings across the league include all Week 18 games.
1. Differences in deep passes
Kirk Cousins found more success on deep passes (20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage) than he had all season.
Cousins completed six of seven passes for 201 yards and scores of 44, 45 and 21 yards for an NFL-maximum passer rating of 158.3 on such throws.
That was a stark contrast to Minnesota's Week 15 game at Chicago when he was 0-for-4 and equaled the number of deep completions he recorded in five games from Week 12 through Week 16. In that span, Cousins was 6-for-19 with 223 yards and two scores.
Andy Dalton meanwhile was 0-for-4 with an interception on passes 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Elsewhere on the field, Cousins was 8-for-14 and totaled 49 yards Sunday.
2. Jefferson's Day
Justin Jefferson (3,016) became the first NFL player to record more than 3,000 receiving yards in his first two seasons with five catches for 107 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown catch.
While he missed out on the Vikings single-season receiving record (1,632 in 16 games by Randy Moss in 2003) by 17 yards, Jefferson's 1,616 were the second-most across the NFL this season and rank 21st all-time.
According to Next Gen Stats, Jefferson's 45-yard score, on which he opted against a post pattern, played possum and used "late hands" to decoy safety Eddie Jackson, ranked fourth among improbable completions.
Jefferson also recorded the fastest speed by a ball carrier in the game, reaching 19.84 miles per hour during his 26-yard reception in the fourth quarter. That speed ranked 16*th* in the NFL in Week 18.
3. Peterson's Pick-Six
It took until the 17th game of an expanded regular season, but Patrick Peterson recorded an interception to make it at least one in all 11 seasons.
Peterson's 66-yard return for a touchdown wound up being the longest play of Week 18.
According to Next Gen Stats, Peterson traveled 107.6 yards as he weaved his way to the end zone for his fifth career touchdown, second pick-six and first score since 2014 as a member of the Cardinals.