EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Vikings first matchup against the Bears this season is now nearly three months in the rearview mirror, but it was that victory at Soldier Field that kicked off an eight-game win streak for Minnesota.
Case Keenum played the second half of that *Monday Night Football *contest after Sam Bradford started the game but ended up re-aggravating a knee injury. Keenum refrained from calling the win a "turning point" in the season but said that it was a significant moment in a league where every game counts.
"It was a good win," Keenum said Thursday. "Any win is good. And you try to build on those things – what you did well, what you didn't do well, you work on."
The quarterback continues to approach each game with that mentality.
On the heels of a 16-0 shutout at Green Bay Saturday night, Keenum is now intent on cleaning up the offense for Sunday's regular-season finale against the Bears and into the postseason.
Keenum said the Vikings offense didn't click "as well as we'd like to" against the Packers in harsh temperatures.
"We missed some shots, you know, obviously I missed a few down the field – guys made some good plays and got open, and we missed those [that] we normally hit," Keenum said. "We're going to work on it this week, and we're going to hit those shots – because that's what we do. But we did enough. And in this league, any time you have a win, you don't take it lightly."
The Vikings have now won 10 of their past 11 games and will look to cap off 2017 with another defeat of an NFC North opponent.
Keenum emphasized that while momentum can have an impact on a team, it's important to view it as extra fuel rather than relying too heavily on it. He said that momentum has to be used "the right way" when a team is able to string together wins.
"Don't take advantage of it, don't expect it just to roll through," Keenum said. "You have to attack every week the same. You have to go out and start fast. You have to convert on third downs, you have to score touchdowns in the red zone, and those things help keep the momentum, because it can flip just like that."
Minnesota will look to accomplish all of those things when facing Chicago. A win by the Vikings will secure a first-round bye.
"I mean, it's like winning a round of the playoffs," Keenum said. "For us, that's what we're playing for this week. That's of utmost importance – that's why we're putting everything we've got into this."
Zimmer: Vikings understand 'what's at stake' in Sunday's game
As Head Coach Mike Zimmer emphasized earlier this week, the Vikings are not taking this weekend's game lightly.
While Chicago's 5-10 record doesn't necessarily reflect it, Zimmer reminded media members that its defense has a number of weapons.
"They're very stout up front, very physical," Zimmer said. "[Akiem] Hicks is a good player, [Eddie] Goldman's a good player, the two linebackers – [Danny] Trevathan, he's a good player.
"But I think the biggest thing they've changed this year is that they're playing better in the back end. They're mixing a lot of coverages; they play strongside roll, weakside roll, quarters, 3-deep," Zimmer added. "They play some man-to-man. [Prince] Amukamara presses a little bit more than [Kyle] Fuller. I think [Eddie] Jackson's helped them in the secondary, in the back end. Usually when you kind of get good statistically in total yards, it's because you don't give up a lot of plays in the passing game. You can be pretty good that way."
The Bears have been eliminated from the playoffs, and Zimmer acknowledged that teams will sometimes switch things up or take more chances if there isn't anything on the line. He used the example of the Packers last week going for it on fourth down four times during the game.
"They pretty much do what they do," Zimmer said of the Bears. "The difference is, they had a fake punt for a touchdown against us last year; they ran an onside kick two years ago. It was the last game of the year."
And while it may be impossible to be prepared for every possible scenario Chicago could throw at them, Zimmer assured that the Vikings are on their toes and taking the game seriously.
He said the team was well-focused during the week's first two practices.
"I think they understand what's at stake," Zimmer said. "We've had two really good practices. They seem to be saying the right things."
For the Vikings: Kevin McDermott (shoulder), Shamar Stephen (ankle), Tramaine Brock, Sr. (foot) and Pat Elflein (shoulder) did not participate. Kyle Rudolph (ankle) was limited, while Jerick McKinnon (shoulder) and Mike Remmers (low back) were full participants. Terence Newman (non-injury related) returned to practice after being classified as limited in Wednesday's session.
For the Bears: Bobby Massie (ankle) and Josh Sitton (knee) did not participate, while Adam Shaheen (chest) and DeAndre Houston-Carson (back) were limited. Bradley Sowell (back) was a full participant.