EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings are preparing for the Bears with offensive numbers that are trending more like bull markets.
Minnesota (6-9) will host Chicago (5-10) at noon (CT) Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium in the regular season finale for both teams. It will be a rematch of a 21-13 loss by the Vikings at Soldier Field when the offense was a little disappointed in production a week after its Week 10 bye.
In the five games that have followed, however, the offense has experienced quite a bump in numbers.
The Vikings have 17 total touchdowns in the past five games after scoring 16 through their first 10 games. Rookie Teddy Bridgewater has had a completion rate higher than 70 percent in four straight games, which hasn't been done by a Vikings quarterback within the 22-year-old's lifetime.
In the past five games, Bridgewater's passer rating is 99.4 (seventh highest in the NFL), the Vikings have nine receiving TDs (seventh in the league) and have averaged 26.2 points per game (ninth-best) in that span. Bridgewater said the results are because of "this entire team's growth."
"I know we didn't meet any of our goals, well, we have met some goals, but we didn't meet our primary goals for the season, but we've grown as an offense, as a team," Bridgewater said. "Each week we've made improvements. Coach Norv Turner said something to us back in training camp, he told us that, 'Hey, come December, you're going to be playing your best football.' You look at the numbers, I know we haven't gotten a win the past two games, but we've been playing at a higher level. It's a good sign for down the road."
Bears coach and Minnesota native Marc Trestman said the Vikings are continuing to improve with more time in Turner's system.
"We see that on tape in a lot of different ways and expect them to be better this week as well," Trestman said. "I think (Bridgewater is) making good decisions, and they're able to run the football and exploit their entire package. Their package is getting better because he's getting the reps and he's spending more time on the field."
Bridgewater said the increased time on the field has helped him understand the help he has between the lines.
"We have a great group of veterans around here, those guys do a great job of whether it's mentoring us young players or coaching us up on the run," Bridgewater said. "I think I've been doing a great job of leaning on those guys, such as Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, Chad Greenway, Brian Robison, Greg Jennings, the list goes on and on. I think I've done a great job of leaning on those guys."
Jennings, who leads the Vikings with 56 catches, 697 yards and six receiving touchdowns, said the rapid growth has been encouraging, and he expects the trajectory to continue for Bridgewater.
"He's the youngest quarterback I've played with, so his maturation process has been leaps and bounds from his first start to last week, him trusting different things and making decisions, throwing the ball and different things like that," Jennings said.
GOOD GUY AWARD: Vikings defensive end Brian Robison was recognized Wednesday as the 2014 winner of the Korey Stringer Good Guy Award. The award is named in honor of the former Vikings tackle who played six seasons (1995-2000) before passing away Aug. 1, 2001. Stringer is in the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor, his No. 77 jersey is retired and his locker at Winter Park is preserved.
The Professional Football Writers Association awards a Media Good Guy Award in all 32 markets in recognition of a player who shares time and a positive attitude during media interviews.
"First and foremost, I'm very appreciative of this award," Robison said. "It's named after a great guy, I've heard a lot of stories about him, he seemed like an awesome guy to be around, no matter who you were, he just seemed like a great guy. I want to be very appreciative of that.
"Secondly, I've always known that (the media has) a job to do and it's hard for you guys to come into the locker room every day, especially after losses and really interview us and try to get stories out of us," Robison continued. "I'm appreciative of the fact that I'm able to talk to you guys every week, get my face out there to the fans and things like that because without you guys, the fans wouldn't know the type of person I am, the sense of humor I have, so, without you guys a lot of the fans wouldn't know exactly who, speaking third-person here, who 'Brian Robison' is. I'm very appreciative of you guys. With that being said, this award will definitely go in the room with the rest of my NFL accolades, so it will be in a room by itself."
VIKINGS SIGN RB: A day after waiving veteran Ben Tate, the Vikings signed rookie running back Henry Josey off of Jacksonville's practice squad to their 53-man roster.
Josey became the second player in Missouri history to have two 1,000 yard seasons and participated in the 2014 NFL Combine, where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, the 20-yard shuttle in 4.13 seconds and the 60-yard shuttle in 11.67 seconds. The time in the 40 was third-fastest among running backs and two-hundredths of a second behind Vikings rookie Jerick McKinnon, who had 538 yards rushing this season before being placed on injured reserve with a back injury that required surgery.
Josey's time in the 20-yard shuttle was fifth fastest among running backs and one-hundredth behind McKinnon, and his showing in the 60-yard shuttle was fourth-fastest among running backs. He signed with Philadelphia as an undrafted rookie free agent and was released by the Eagles at the end of training camp before being signed to the Jaguars practice squad.
The Vikings also signed rookie linebacker Justin Anderson out of Louisiana-Lafayette. Anderson spent time this season on the practice squad and 53-man roster of the New York Giants this season.
BACK OUTDOORS: The Vikings opted to practice outdoors Wednesday for the first time since before the bye week when the first snow storm of the season came through. A heating system ordered from England was installed during the season, and made the field available.
The temperature at the start of practice was 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and the forecast for Sunday's regular season finale is a high of 28 and a low of 16.
PARTICIPATION: For the Vikings: Anthony Barr (knee), Brandon Watts (hamstring), Jarius Wright (lower back), Chad Greenway (knee) and Kyle Rudolph (ankle) did not participate. Charlie Johnson (ankle), Jennings (hamstring), Antone Exum (knee), Mike Harris (foot), Chase Ford (foot) and Robert Blanton (ankle) were limited. Andrew Sendejo (thumb), Sharrif Floyd (knee) and Matt Asiata (foot) fully participated.
For the Bears: QB Jimmy Clausen is out because of a concussion. DE Jared Allen (ribs), S Chris Conte (back), K Robbie Gould (quadriceps) and DT Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) did not participate. DE David Bass (knee), G Kyle Long (hip) and WR Marquess Wilson (knee) were limited. DT Ego Ferguson (ankle) participated fully.