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Lunchbreak: Vikings Rookies Credited by PFF Despite Loss to Bears

Sunday's loss to the Bears means the Vikings likely will miss this year's postseason.

It's been an up-and-down campaign for Minnesota, which has weathered not only the COVID-19 pandemic but several injuries to key players. The Vikings have relied heavily on first-year players throughout the season, and while there certainly have been growing pains, it's encouraging to see the youngsters' progression.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus delved into Sunday’s NFC North matchup and credited a handful of Vikings rookies. PFF's Ben Linsey wrote:

This wasn't Justin Jefferson's flashiest stat line this season, but that speaks more to just how great he's been overall. Three of his five receptions in the game went for 15 or more yards, and he's now averaging 16.6 yards per reception on the year.

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Ezra Cleveland started his seventh game of the season at right guard, and he held up better than arguably any Vikings offensive lineman in pass protection in this game. He was charged with allowing just one pressure prior to review.

On defense, Cameron Dantzler continued his improved play since returning in Week 11. He was targeted six times and allowed just 30 receiving yards on those targets, adding an interception in the process. Jeff Gladney also played well in the slot for Minnesota. Sixteen of his 26 coverage snaps in the game came inside, and he didn't allow a reception on those plays.

CBS Sports gives Vikings low grade for Sunday's game

Following the Vikings 33-27 loss to the Bears, CBS Sports' John Breech gave an "A" grade to Chicago while handing a "D" to Minnesota.

Breech pointed out that the Vikings were "really hurt" by going 0-of-2 on fourth downs and 4-of-11 on third downs. He also highlighted Minnesota's 50-percent success rate inside Chicago's 10-yard line. Breech wrote:

Chicago's secondary did a good job blanketing Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson in the red zone following Thielen's first quarter touchdown catch. Defensively, the Vikings were unable to keep Mitchell Trubisky inside the pocket, as Chicago's quarterback made numerous plays on the run.

Breech added that Minnesota had "no answer" for running back David Montgomery, who missed the teams' Week 10 matchup with a concussion. Montgomery racked up 32 carries for 146 yards and two scores on Sunday.

The Vikings squandered big offensive contributions from Dalvin Cook (132 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries) and Jefferson (eight catches 104 yards), who on Sunday broke Randy Moss' franchise record for receptions by a rookie.

View game action photos as the Vikings take on the Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium for Week 15.

Minnesota hurt by 'porous' defense

The Vikings struggled to contain the Bears Sunday in what Head Coach Mike Zimmer called a disappointing defensive performance.

Sam Ekstrom of Zone Coverage echoed those thoughts, saying that the Vikings were "doomed" by potentially the defense's weakest outing of the season. Ekstrom wrote:

A Chicago team that was hapless offensively when the teams met in Week 10 looked rejuvenated with [its] former first-round pick (Mitchell Trubisky) back under center as he defeated the Vikings for a third straight year at U.S. Bank Stadium. Despite a porous performance, Cameron Dantzler's interception in the end zone with just over three minutes left gave Minnesota hope in the closing moments — Trubisky's one notable blunder on the afternoon.

Ekstrom pointed out that the Bears "were hardly stoppable" after going three-and-out on their first possession.

Trubisky used a steady diet of bootlegs and play-actions to challenge the Vikings linebackers and young corners, while David Montgomery eclipsed 100 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns. Minnesota was missing linebacker Eric Kendricks for a third straight week and clearly missed him in coverage and in run defense. Backup linebackers Todd Davis and Troy Dye also missed time Sunday with injuries, leaving the middle of the Vikings defense extremely short-handed.

At one point Chicago scored on six consecutive possessions not counting the expiration of the first half, building a 30-20 lead. It was a far cry from the fading team Minnesota saw at Soldier Field with Nick Foles at the helm. The Bears were 6-of-12 on third down and only committed one offensive penalty, a perfect recipe to win on the road.

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