CHICAGO – Anthony Harris had two interceptions to give the Vikings a shot, but Minnesota's mistakes on both sides resulted in a 25-20 post-bye loss to the Bears at Soldier Field.
On the Bears second drive of the night, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw deep into traffic for receiver Taylor Gabriel. Harris read the play, got his hands on the ball and hung onto it for the interception.
"I just tried to disguise pre-snap, take a look at the offense, see what formation they were in, where the players were, check out the matchups and execute my assignment," Harris said. "I tried to read the quarterback and get a good break on the ball."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer called it a "really good" interception and said that Harris did exactly as he tried to do by getting a good break.
The turnover halted Chicago's drive, and the Vikings took over on their own 32 but were held to a three-and-punt by a dynamic Bears defense.
Harris' second splash play of the night came late in the third quarter. On third-and-8, Trubisky targeted Allen Robinson but fell victim again to the Vikings safety. The pick gave the Vikings the ball in Chicago territory, but they couldn't find the end zone, instead settling for a 36-yard field goal by Dan Bailey to give Minnesota its first points of the night.
Making his third consecutive start in place of an injured Andrew Sendejo, Harris seemed to fly all over the field. In addition to the two interceptions, he added four tackles (league stats) and a pair of passes defensed.
But at the end of the day, Harris said he couldn't take true pride in his performance because it didn't include the stat he truly cares about.
"Winning is the number one priority," Harris said. "Obviously, performing well is one of my priorities, too; that's doing my part and helping the team get a win. We've just got to be better collectively."
As a unit, Minnesota's defense had ups and downs through the evening.
"We did a good job of trying to communicate on certain plays, but we still feel like we can continue to improve," Harris said.
"In the first half, we didn't play great defensively. I thought we played a lot better in the second half. Most of it was missed tackles in the first half, I thought," Zimmer said. "We made enough mistakes tonight that didn't allow us to win. We played soft on a couple of third downs, and they made some easy throws in there."
The Vikings forced three turnovers by the Bears, including a fumble by Tarik Cohen that was forced by Jaleel Johnson and recovered by Harrison Smith early in the fourth quarter.
But keys to keeping the Bears contained on the ground – keeping Trubisky in the pocket and stopping the run overall – weren't consistently executed.
Trubisky ended up Chicago's second-leading rusher with 43 yards on 10 rushes, including two to convert third downs. Jordan Howard recorded 63 yards on 18 carries, and Cohen added seven rushes for 27 yards. He also had three catches for 23 yards through the air.
Trubisky finished 20-of-31 passing for 165 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The second-year QB's passer rating was 61.9.
"He's a good athlete, has an arm to complete some passes. He's obviously dangerous when he gets out of the pocket," Harris said. "We've just got to do a better job of corralling him, rushing together, keeping contain on the quarterback, and then the secondary, trying to plaster and stay on their guys.
"I think he just did a good job of buying time, whether it's getting out of the pocket or maneuvering while in the pocket, trying to get receivers open," Harris added. "He ran when he could and threw it to receivers when he had the opportunity.
Zimmer also spoke about Trubisky's ability to move, specifically in the first half.
"He made some good runs. We did a nice job covering, and we beat some guys and had a chance to sack him, and he made some nice runs," Zimmer. "In the second half we went back to some other things and took care of it."
Where the Vikings most deeply hurt themselves on defense was with penalties.
On three different occasions, the officials flagged Minnesota for 15-yard penalties. The first came when linebacker Eric Wilson, who started in place of an injured Anthony Barr, was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct just before halftime.
"It was a taunting call. It was for tossing his towel back at him. I looked and realized I had [Gabriel's] towel, so I tossed it back at him and they called it on us," Wilson said of the official's explanation. "I thought it was a petty foul, but it is what it is, but I can't do that."
The penalty moved the Bears from the Vikings 40 to the 25, and they were able to cap their drive with a 41-yard field goal.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Bears under the lights for Sunday Night Football at Soldier Field.
Early in the third quarter, linebacker Eric Kendricks was called for unnecessary roughness when, after Cohen was stopped for a loss of 4, Kendricks hit the running back late out of bounds.
With just over three minutes remaining and as the Vikings worked to claw their way to a comeback, safety Harrison Smith hit Trubisky and was called for unnecessary roughness. The penalty moved the Bears from their 49 to the Vikings 36. Four plays later, Parkey kicked a 48-yard field goal to put Chicago up 25-14 with 2:48 left in the game.
"We made too many mistakes to win tonight," Zimmer said. "The Bears did a nice job, and they've got a good football team. We're going to have to regroup and get back at it."
Despite the tough divisional loss, the Vikings will look to keep their focus and turn the page for another NFC North rival. Minnesota will host Green Bay for a second consecutive Sunday Night Football contest next weekend.
"We're going to go back and watch the film tomorrow," Harris said. "There's nothing we can do about the game; it's over with, so we've just got to go back, see what we can improve and move forward. We can only control what we can control."