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Ground Game, Offense Unable to Get Going in Chicago

CHICAGO – It seemed nothing went right for the Vikings offense Sunday afternoon, totaling just 222 net yards from scrimmage en route to a 16-6 loss to the Bears.

The longest drive of the day came late in the fourth quarter, when the Vikings went 92 yards in 4:08 and finished with a touchdown by Dalvin Cook.

The 2-point conversion attempt that followed was no good, and the Vikings ran out of chances.

"It was just wasn't good enough," Cook said after the game. "We never found our rhythm, we just never got nothing going, and when we did, it was just too late.

"We just couldn't find it. It was just one of those days," he later added. "That's about it. That's how you sum it up."

Minnesota chipped away on its first drive, converting a third down early on with a 13-yard completion from Kirk Cousins to running back Cook. But Chicago had a recipe for success against the previously dominant Vikings run game, and Cook carried four times for just three yards during the drive.

Cousins threw a deep pass toward the end zone, attempting to catch receiver Adam Thielen in stride, but the ball sailed just past his grasp.

"It was something that we had up, have had up, and he made a great read of finding me open, and just didn't complete the pass," Thielen said. "It's as simple as that."

Added Cousins: "It's a throw I want back. You want to hit that one, for sure."

The Vikings had just two offensive possessions in the entire first half, getting their second chance early in the second quarter.

Again, Minnesota chipped away with the help of three penalties on Chicago, including being flagged for unnecessary roughness and for hands to the face.

Rhythm was an issue, as the Vikings were plagued by a Bears defense that proved relentless despite missing a couple of key starters.

A play initially ruled an incomplete pass to Stefon Diggs was challenged by Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy, and the ruling was overturned, called instead a fumble by Diggs and recovery by Chicago to stop the drive.

"Things like that happen in a football game. We just have to be able to respond and forget about it, move on to the next play," center Garrett Bradbury said. "There's a lot of things that didn't go our way, but there were some that did, so we just have to build on the good and improve on the bad and move forward."

Vikings trailed 10-0 entering the third quarter and got several more chances in the second half but with no better results.

Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack sacked Cousins for a loss of 7 on the very first snap of the second half and forced a fumble by the quarterback. The ball was recovered by defensive end Nick Williams.

On their next possession, the Vikings went three-and-out.

Cousins was sacked a total of six times, two of which resulted in fumbles, for a combined loss of 51 yards.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said that ball security had been a point of emphasis going into the game.

"I talked about it last night in a meeting, and I would say we've got to protect the football in the pocket," Zimmer said. "They're big at stripping the balls in the pocket. We've got to do a better job there and make sure we do that. We didn't do that today.

"We've got to secure the ball when he starts getting heat around him. That's a part of it," he later added. "I think the one he was trying to throw, and the other one, it got away from him around his midsection, it looked like."

Cousins finished the game 27-of-36 passing for 233 yards and a passer rating of 91.6. He did not throw a touchdown or an interception.

Minnesota entered the game knowing it would likely be harder to run against a stout Chicago defense, and that was the case. After racking up 375 rushing yards over the first three weeks, Cook accrued just 35 yards on the ground at Soldier Field.

The fact that the Vikings didn't respond through the air was most aggravating aspect of the game for Thielen.

"We knew that was going to happen at some point. At some point, you're not going to be able to run the ball for 180 yards, even with the best running back in the NFL," Thielen said. "And that's when you have to be able to throw the ball, you have to be able to make plays, you have to be able to hit the deep balls. You have to do that, because otherwise it's too easy for teams to just tee up and rush the quarterback.

"We have to be able to run the ball and pass the ball," he added emphatically. "In this league, you cannot be one-dimensional; it's just too easy to defend."

Thielen recorded just two catches for six yards on the night. Diggs led the team in receiving with seven catches for 108 yards, but the bulk of his targets and largest gains didn't occur until late in the ball game.

Asked about not throwing to that duo more often and earlier, Cousins said that "every play is different."

"One time we tried to take a shot to Adam, and they doubled him, and I checked it down to C.J. Ham," Cousins explained. "Another time, Kyle Fuller plays a trail technique and tips the ball. Adam's open, but he comes underneath it and tips the ball. [Danny] Trevathan was coming off the middle push route, so I couldn't lead Adam too far in there, so that was a tough one. Again, good job by the Bears.

"I think other than that, you miss the one on third down early in the game, and then from there, until I watch the film, it would be hard for me to tell you how many of them, 'Hey, the coverage is taking them away,' or I'm progressing, or the pass rush is affecting the ability to wait on them because they're running the deeper developing routes that are longer developing and require more time," Cousins continued.

While Chicago's defensive prowess wasn't denied, it also wasn't used as an excuse by the Vikings.

Player after player took responsibility for the underwhelming performance and ultimate loss.

"We shot ourselves in the foot," said Thielen. "Obviously the Bears came out playing, and we didn't."

Blame also was not placed on Cousins by any of his teammates.

View game action images as the Vikings took of the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday.

"Our job is to protect the quarterback [and] the football, and we did not do that today," Bradbury said. "I'm going to put that on me, and I think everybody needs to look at themselves in the mirror and just think about what they could have done better. The loss hurts."

The defeat moved Minnesota to 2-2 on the season and 0-2 against division rivals.

Vikings right tackle Brian O'Neill was asked about a "greater sense of urgency" for the team moving forward.

"We have 16 chances, and every game's urgent. I'm not going to be 'more urgent' because we lost two games," O'Neill said. "I gave it everything I had today, everything I had the first division game, everything I have in the non-division game next week.

"You empty the bucket every game. I've got nothing," O'Neill added. "I'm going to empty the bucket on film tomorrow, I'm going to do it again the next day."

Thielen said it's too early in the season to hit the panic button, but multiple things can be improved upon.

"We've got a long ways to go. I've seen a lot of 2-2 teams make the playoffs," said Thielen, who was part of a 2017 Vikings squad who started the season in a similar fashion. "But that doesn't mean that we don't have a lot of things to fix, and I'm going to be the first one to say that I've gotta go back to work, and I've gotta get a lot better.

"Obviously what I'm doing isn't good enough," he added. "The first thing you have to do when you lose like this is look yourself in the mirror and say, 'What could I have done better to help this team win?' And I'm sure there's a lot of things I could have done."