EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Three passes for 21 yards in the final 25 seconds of the first half on Monday was the start of Case Keenum's first in-game relief work for the Vikings.
Keenum, who had started in place of Kyle Rudolph in Weeks 2-4, followed by opening the second half 7-of-8 passing for 57 yards, highlighted by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph.
Minnesota found a rhythm in the third quarter and built leads of 10-2 and 17-9 over the Bears before eventually prevailing 20-17 at Soldier Field.
Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said the Vikings were trying to establish that at the start of the game for Sam Bradford in his first action since dazzling in Week 1. Bradford, however, was unable to find his groove and was 5-of-11 passing for 36 yards before leaving with a re-aggravation of his knee.
"I think to get the quarterback started is important, and we were certainly trying to do that with Sam," Shurmur said Thursday. "It just wasn't quite working. I think it's like anything. It's like in basketball, you make a couple shots you get some confidence, same thing can be said for a quarterback. If you can get a good start, and you can get a drive going and you get a couple first downs – you start to get to more than four or five plays, it certainly helps."
Bradford did not practice Wednesday or Thursday when Shurmur was asked about what teams look for in a backup quarterback.
"Well, certainly they have to have the attributes to be a starter," Shurmur said. "They have to be good decision makers, for one. They have to be accurate passers. They have to understand timing, so when it's time late in a down, it's time to scramble.
"They really have to be good decision makers, going back to the first point, early in the down as well as late in the down," Shurmur added. "I think it helps if the backup quarterback is mobile, so that he can move around and you can use really your whole offense."
Shurmur said he and Vikings coaches were impressed with Keenum's skill set when they evaluated potential free agents this past offseason.
"He's won games as a starter, and that's an important piece for a quarterback," Shurmur said. "We felt like he'd be a good fit."
Here are other highlights from media sessions with Shurmur, Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer:
Shurmur on the running game
The Vikings also played their first game without rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who had surgery to repair a torn ACL* *on Monday.
Latavius Murray opened the game and had a nice 8-yard rush early. He finished with 12 carries for 31 yards and partnered with Jerick McKinnon (16 rushes for 95 yards, including a 58-yard score) to help
Minnesota rush for a season-best 159 yards.
"I think when you go into the game, our intention was to use both of them, and then [McKinnon] had the hot hand, and we just kind of stuck with him," said Shurmur, who noted that amount of carries could change week to week.
"[McKinnon] got our most explosive play in that 58-yard run, but I thought down to down he ran the ball well," Shurmur said. "We knew going in, and it's always the case when playing Chicago, that's a gritty, big front. It was a fight all night up there. We weren't quite as efficient with our runs early, and then we kept pounding, kind of kept beating on the rock so to speak. We found a way to be efficient at the end. Jerick was a big piece in that."
Edwards on rushing Rodgers
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made teams pay from in or out of the pocket and any point behind the line of scrimmage. He's also taken advantage of large openings in the defense for a scramble from time to time.
In the past three games, however, Minnesota has sacked Rodgers a total of 14 times.
The Vikings have 12 sacks this season, led by Everson Griffen's 6.0.
Rodgers has been sacked 19 times in 2017.
Edwards said the Vikings must pay attention to details in their preparation.
"He is able to scramble and run. He can make all the throws," Edwards said. "That is the biggest [threat] that he poses. His receivers do a good job of adjusting down the field as he starts to move around the pocket. He poses a lot of challenges as far as our rush plan this week. [Defensive line coach Andre] Patterson and those guys are doing a great job of preparing this week."
Edwards on Smith's consistent play
Vikings safety Harrison Smith recorded his 14th career interception and second of the 2017 season on Monday. The clutch play set up the game-winning, 26-yard field goal by Kai Forbath.
In addition to the splash plays, Edwards said Smith's value is displayed on every play.
"Harrison is one of the most consistent players we have," Edwards said. "Day-in and day-out, he is going to come to work. He is going to pay attention to the details. He can transfer it from the meeting rooms to the field, and then to the game on Sundays. Everything he does, he is a true professional. We are fortunate to have him. Being able to make that play last week was huge."
Priefer on Chicago's fake punt
The Bears first touchdown occurred on special teams when Pat O'Donnell lofted a pass over the middle to Benny Cunningham for a 38-yard score. Cunningham executed a spin move on the way to the end zone for Chicago's longest pass play of the season.
Priefer said he was upset with himself for the call that he made on the play.
"It was not anything that our players did wrong," Priefer said. "Now, I would've liked to make the tackle after they got the first down because the way our defense was playing, we might have forced a field goal situation. But, at the end of the day, that call was on me."
Priefer said the special teams unit covered kickoffs and punts well and that Forbath "did a great job."
"We protected against a really good field goal block team," Priefer said. "I thought we came out of there with a win and just one really bad play. … They executed it well, they caught us in something I should not have made that call. We should not have been in that situation."
Priefer on Green Bay's lone kickoff return
Green Bay has returned just one kickoff this season. It was by Jeff Janis last week for 17 yards.
Priefer said Janis is a "great returner" but noted that the Packers are a team that has been "content" with taking a touchback and giving their offense the ball at the 25-yard line. Kickoff teams also have been OK with going for the touchback instead of trying to pin return teams inside the 25-yard line.
Priefer said he generally prefers an aggressive approach for his kickoff coverage and return teams.
Vikings opponents have averaged 19.8 yards per kickoff return (238 yards on 12 returns).
"Field position is crucial," Priefer said. "At times, I wish we would have taken a knee. Of course, there is other times that I wished we didn't kick touchbacks because I kind of like covering kicks. We've been covering kicks, all but the one Tampa kick, we've covered kicks very well this year. That's when you get them inside the 25 or even inside the 20."