The Vikings used solid special teams play and some late-game magic on Sunday to register a 23-20 victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The victory is the Vikings first in Chicago since 2007 and it improves the team's record to 5-2 following three consecutive wins coming off a Week 5 bye.
Here are five reasons the Vikings came out on top in Chicago on Sunday…
1. Big plays in big moments
When a big play was needed and when a player was in a position to make a big play, it happened for the Vikings. With the Vikings trailing 20-13 and facing a 3rd and 4 from the CHI 40, Stefon Diggs hauled in a 10-yard catch on a comeback route. After securing the pass, he used a reverse pivot to get past CB Sherrick McManis and race down the left sideline where he used a Mike Wallace block to get into the end zone. Later, with the game tied and only 36 seconds remaining on the clock, a Teddy Bridgewater pass seemed destined to be picked off by S Antrel Rolle before Charles Johnson skied to high-point the pass and come down with it at the CHI 35. Adrian Peterson ripped off a nine-yard run moments later and that setup Blair Walsh for the 36-yard walk-off winning FG. Those are just a few examples of the Vikings getting big plays when they were needed. Others included: Marcus Sherels' 65-yard punt return TD; a 12-yard gain on 3rd and 13 on a check down to RB Matt Asiata; a pass breakup by CB Terence Newman on 3rd and 2 from the MIN 15 in the 3rd quarter; and a 19-yard scramble by Bridgewater on 2nd and 18 during the game-tying drive, among others.
2. Blair Walsh
Blair Walsh made his fourth career game-winning FG but also made important kicks leading up to the walk-off winner to put the Vikings in position. He salvaged scoring drives in the 2nd and 4th quarters with 43- and 48-yarders and then also converted a clutch PAT attempt after Diggs' game-tying TD. Walsh has now made 13 consecutive FGs and is 17 of 19 (89.5%) on the season.
3. Complementary football
One again, it required a complete team effort for the Vikings to record the win. Special teams accounted for 16 of the 23 points, the defense held Chicago's offense in check for much of the game, got off the field on 9 of 12 3rd downs and forced a three-and-out of the Bears offense to setup Walsh's game-winner, and the offense put together a pair of scoring drives when it mattered most. Sunday's win was a great illustration of complementary football, where each phase of the team complements the other phases by stepping up when the others struggle and by taking advantage of opportunities created by the others.
4. The offensive line played well
We've gotten this far in summarizing a Vikings without mentioning Adrian Peterson. And he had 103 rushing yards on 20 carries, marking his 45th career 100-yard game. Also yet to be mentioned is the fact that Bridgewater was sacked just once on Sunday. He had been sacked 16 times in his previous three road starts. Put that all together, and it's clear the offensive line played well. LT Matt Kalil looked particularly dominant during stretches of the game, rookie Austin Shepherd came in to replace an injured TJ Clemmings before Clemmings eventually returned, and the three interior starters worked well in paving the way for Peterson to run with physicality between the tackles.
5. The defense was up to snuff in the screen game
The screen game, particularly WR screens, was a major element of the Bears offense going into Sunday's game. In the Bears most recent game, 35% of their completions were WR screens. This tactic can neutralize the pass rush and it puts pressure on defenders to make tackles in open space. Vikings defenders did just that. CB Terence Newman was credited with a team-high 10 tackles and several of them came in the screen game, rookie LB Eric Kendricks diagnosed and then stopped a WR screen on Chicago's first 3rd down, DE Everson Griffen ran down RB Matt Forte on a 3rd down screen, and several other Vikings were in on defending the Bears screen game. Bears QB Jay Cutler still found a way to get WR Alshon Jeffery going (10-116-1), but that Chicago couldn't rely on its screen game made them a bit more one-dimensional in the passing game and was a big reason the Vikings were able to get off the field on so many 3rd downs.