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NOTEBOOK: 'Right Mindset' Helped Keenum in a Pinch, Vikings in the Clutch

CHICAGO —Case Keenum wanted to be ready from the get-go or in a pinch.

After starting the past three weeks while Kyle Rudolph was rehabbing a knee injury, Keenum returned to a reserve role Monday night at Soldier Field until a less than a minute remained in the first half.

He and the Vikings came through in the clutch for a 20-17 win over the Bears.

Keenum completed three passes in the first half and carried his rhythm into the third quarter. He finished 17-of-21 passing for 140 yards with one score and no turnovers, totaling a passer rating of 110.3.

The Vikings had touchdown drives on both of their possessions in the period to build leads of 10-2 and 17-9.

"You know, he was just ready to go," said receiver Stefon Diggs. "Case is a high-energy guy; he's real focused, but he'll give you some positivity and some high energy. He came in there with the right mindset to get us going. We were kind of getting off to a slow start, but he came in with the right mindset to get us going. And also, you know, Jet (Jerick McKinnon) picked us up a lot."

Keenum capped the first possession with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, which was followed by an epic celebration. He also had a 19-yard completion to Adam Thielen, the offseason acquisition who made his Vikings debut, two plays before McKinnon weaved and streaked through the Bears defense for a 58-yard touchdown.

"I thought [Offensive Coordinator] Pat [Shurmur] did a great job of mixing up our tempo a little bit," Keenum said. "We had a big run that Jet was able to hit, a tempo type-of run.

"Anytime you can mix it up and keep the defense guessing, I think that was great play calls, and the offensive line did a great job of executing and blocking down the field," Keenum said. "Receivers, I haven't seen the film yet, but I know Tread' (Laquon Treadwell) got all the way from the backside receiver spot and made a great block. Those big blocks are how you get big plays like that."

Although the Vikings only got three points in the fourth quarter, Minnesota controlled the clock with three drives that lasted a combined 9:59 of the final 12:24 of the game.

The middle drive in that span didn't yield points, but the Vikings flipped field position, netting 41 yards before punting.

Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw an interception — the fourth recorded by Harrison Smith against the Bears — on the following play, and the Vikings were able to burn 2:08 of the final 2:20.

"I'm kind of mad about [the drive that ended with a punt] because we didn't score," Keenum said. "I wanted to score. There was a big third down there that [we didn't convert]. We were able to flip the field a little bit, but it was a good route [by Rudolph], and I just missed it."

Bradford did his best to give it a go in his first action since dazzling in Week 1. Bradford, however, re-aggravated the knee injury that's bothered him since he played a pristine game against the Saints to open 2017.

"Sam showed how tough he is, and it took a ton of guts to go out there in the first half, and a healthy Sam can do the same thing and move around," Rudolph said. "So Case wasn't sure when his opportunity was going to come, and unfortunately Sam wasn't able to finish the game, and Case came in and was ready and made a lot of big plays for us."

It's definitely a blow because you're cheering for him and you want him to do well. But like I said during the week, I said we have 100 percent faith in the guys we put back there, so you know Case came in the game, no slouch, we've played a lot of football together. So to see him come in and take control was special.

Forbath for the win

Kai Forbath, who joined the Vikings last November, had never played at Soldier Field, but he understood from teammates the struggles that Minnesota has encountered on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan.

"You can see that guys in the locker room are pretty emotional after that win," Forbath said after his second 26-yard field goal of the night provided the decisive points. "It's big for us, so it's going to be a much better flight home."

Stepping in and stepping up

The Vikings know that Dalvin Cook is unavailable the rest of the season because of an ACL tear he suffered against Detroit on Oct. 1.

Now they also know they can be productive in the run game in Cook's absence. McKinnon led the way with 95 yards on 16 catches and added six receptions for 51 yards.

Latavius Murray, who made his first start with the Vikings, rushed 12 times for 31 yards, and Keenum gained 22 on a scramble. 

"It felt good. The thing about, when Dalvin was in those first couple games, he made those big runs," McKinnon said. "That gives those guys up front a lot of courage and a reason for them to play harder. So you know, us running backs, we have an explosive group, and we know we have to make those plays without Dalvin here. The main point was just to come out, play our game, and find a way to make explosive runs."

Sacks streak

Everson Griffen continued his hot start to the season by recording his sixth sack of 2017 (54th of his career). He has at least one sack in each game this season.

The sack was one of four tackles for loss by the Vikings. Smith, Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr recorded the others.

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