Teddy Bridgewater authored a signature performance and the defense used key contributions from rookies and role players to help the Vikings notch a convincing 38-17 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium. The win improved the Vikings record to 9-5 on the season as they go back to work this week to prepare for Sunday night's game against the NY Giants.
Here are five reasons the Vikings came out on top on Sunday…
1. Teddy took command
Teddy Bridgewater had more TD passes (4) than incompletions (3). That stat alone tells you all you need to know about the second-year passer's performance against the Bears. But there are a lot of other statistics that illustrate how well Bridgewater played. For example, he was 8 of 9 for 119 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs plus a 12-yard TD run on 3rd downs. He also took just one sack and he didn't turn the ball over.
2. Key plays to begin the 1st, 3rd quarters
The Bears began each half with big plays, but the Vikings quickly responded each time to get back on track and regain control. The Vikings kicked off to begin the game, and Bears return man Deonte Thompson returned it 49 yards to midfield. Then, on the Bears first play from scrimmage, RB Matt Forte dashed 35 yards to the Vikings 15. A holding penalty negated the big run, though, and the Vikings forced a Bears three-and-out from that point forward, thanks in large part to a Tom Johnson sack on 2nd and 17. The Vikings offense took the field following the Bears punt and promptly drove 93 yards in 13 plays to score a TD and take an early 7-0 lead. To open the 3rd quarter, Chicago attempted and recovered an onside kick to take possession at the Chicago 47. Three plays later after Chicago gained 12 yards and crossed into Vikings territory, DE Brian Robison made one of the game's biggest plays. He got around the edge and sacked Jay Cutler, also forcing Cutler to fumble and then falling on the football to regain possession for the Vikings on the Minnesota 45. The Vikings offense took the field and drove 55 yards in 6 plays to score a TD on a second Bridgewater-to-Stefon Diggs TD toss.
3. Role players and rookies stepped up
The Vikings defense was without three starters on Sunday, with LB Anthony Barr, DT Linval Joseph and S Harrison Smith all sidelined. But the rest of the defense stepped up, including a handful of rookies and role players. For the rookies, DE Danielle Hunter had 1.5 sacks and now leads all rookies in that category with 5.0 and Diggs had 2 TDs receptions to highlight an impressive performance by the group. For the role players/veterans, DE Justin Trattou had an INT that led to Bridgewater's TD run, Robison had the strip-sack-recovery early in the 3rd quarter and RB Jerick McKinnon had 4 receptions for 76 yards, including the first TD of his career when he caught a short pass from Bridgewater and found his way into the end zone. The important contributions aren't limited to that list (apologies to Chad Greenway, Tom Johnson, and others), but that so many different players had important contributions illustrates that Sunday's win was yet another example of complementary football and of a team win.
4. The pass rush
Tom Johnson sacked Cutler on the third play from scrimmage, and the defense didn't relent from that point forward. There were four other sacks on the afternoon, including Hunter's 1.5 plus tallies by Greenway, Robison and Sharrif Floyd. The Bears had their drives end in punts following the sacks by Johnson, Greenway, Hunter and the split sack by Floyd and Hunter, and then the Robison sack resulted in a fumble and recovery for the Vikings. On the Vikings drives that followed those punts/turnover, the Vikings scored 24 points.
5. The pass protection (and run blocking)
The offensive line has faced more than its fair share of criticism, but after today's performance and the performance from last week they should be given a lot of credit. On Sunday against the Bears, the offensive line allowed just one sack of Bridgewater and they paved the way for a running game that, despite facing eight-man boxes all afternoon, churned out 129 rushing yards on 36 carries.