The Vikings lost three games by three or fewer points in the second half of the season but still ended at 7-9 and got their first divisional win of the season. The season wasn’t everything they hoped, but the Vikings feel they made progress.
No team comes into a season (with the possible exception of Oakland and Jacksonville) saying they’re striving for a 7-9 record. But given that the Vikings started the 2014 with a record of 2-5, finishing 7-9 isn’t such a bad thing.
The situation could have been vastly different. The final three Vikings losses were by three, three and two points, which is why ending the season on a positive note was a must.
“We were in every game we played the second half of the year and had a chance to win all of them,” Everson Griffen
said. “At times, it gives you a bad taste in your mouth, but we showed that we have what is needed to win games and we have a good momentum going our way.”
For young players like Adam Thielen
, who scored the only touchdown in Sunday’s game, heading into the offseason on an uptick is something all the players can build upon.
“It was huge for our confidence going into next year,” Thielen said. “We’ve got a good team. We just had a lot of close games that we lost. We want to be in the playoffs next year.”
As the Vikings prepare to disperse their separate ways Monday to decompress and prepare for the 2015 season that will start with offseason condition in four months, they do so with renewed enthusiasm that the seeds that were planted in 2014 will bear fruit in 2015.
“We’ve had guys in this locker room that have bought into the system and I believe this offseason will be critical for us,” Brian Robison
said. “We’ve had a lot of adversity and a lot of guys have stepped up and proved they belong. We’ve seen some improvement and we’re ready to commit to working hard in the offseason, working individually and as a team to improve and just building on what we were able to accomplish this year.”
GAME DAY NOTES
The Vikings held the Bears and struggling QB Jay Cutler to just 264 yards of offense, as the Minnesota outgained them 311-264.
Teddy Bridgewater had his four-game streak of completing 70 percent of more of his passes snapped Sunday, but not by much. He completed 17 of 25 passes (68 percent) for 209 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Bridgewater finished 6-6 as a starter, almost as many wins as a starter as rookies Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr combined.
Cutler, who has been rumored to be heading out of Chicago, had a brutal day trying to push the ball down the field. He completed 23 of 36 passes, but they went for just 172 yards.
Thanks to a 19-carry, 91-yard rushing game, Matt Asiata took over the team lead in rushing in the second half of the final game. Thanks to 69 second-half rushing yards, Asiata surpassed the 538 yards Jerick McKinnon had before going on injured reserve with a back injury. Asiata finished with 570 rushing yards.
The Vikings held opponents to 21 points or less in nine games this season.
Matt Forte broke a 20-year NFL record for receptions by a running back. He caught eight passes Sunday for just 23 yards, but they pushed his 2014 total to 102 receptions, which broke the all-time single-season record for receptions by a running back – breaking the mark of 101 set in 1995 by Arizona’s Larry Centers.
Greg Jennings had three catches for 45 yards Sunday to finish as the team’s leading receiver for the second straight year – finishing with 59 catches for 742 yards and six TDs.
With the win over Chicago, the Vikings were the only team in the NFC North to get a win over every division they played this season, coming away with victories over the NFC East (Washington), NFC West (St. Louis), the NFC South (Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay) and the AFC East (New York Jets).
One of the highlights of the game came on the sack celebration of Corey Wootton against his former team. After sacking Cutler, Wootton broke into an homage to “Chappelle’s Show” – imitating a recurring uncredited character who would show up randomly doing a robot dance with his eyes rolled back in his head. If you didn’t see it, check out the replay. It’s hilarious.
Thielen scored his first career receiving touchdown on a 45-yard bomb from Bridgewater on a blown coverage. Thielen’s first career touchdown came a blocked punt return.
“I think they dropped a coverage,” Thielen said of the game’s only touchdown. “One guy was playing Cover-2 and the rest of them were playing man (coverage). I inside-released him and Teddy found me.”
The first touchdown of the game appeared to have been provided by the Chicago’s defense. Bridgewater threw a pass off-target to Cordarrelle Patterson, who tipped the ball into the air and it was returned by rookie Kyle Fuller. The play was ruled a touchdown, but replay showed Fuller was down on the 9-yard line. Three plays later, Cutler threw a pass to Alshon Jeffery that was ruled a touchdown, but, for the third time in 32 minutes, a call by referee Jeff Triplette’s crew was reversed. The Bears had to settle for a 25-yard field goal to take a 6-3 lead.
Neither team could get much offense generated in the first half, as the teams went to the locker room tied 3-3. Chicago gained just 125 offensive yards, which was seven more than the Vikings. In the second half, the Vikings would outgain the Bears 193-139.
On their first drive of the game, the Vikings appeared to score a touchdown on a perfectly thrown 35-yard strike to Greg Jennings. But after reviewing the play, the call was overturned. The Vikings still got a field goal to take a 3-0 lead, capping off a 13-play drive that ate 5:25 off the game clock.
John Sullivan had his 93rd career start Sunday, passing Jeff Christy for fourth place among centers in franchise history.
Audie Cole got the start at outside linebacker in place of Chad Greenway, who was inactive with a knee injury. Cole flew all over the field, leading the team with 14 tackles, including 11 solo tackles.
Greenway’s injury prevented him from leading the team in tackles for the seventh straight year. Harrison Smith ended up leading the team in 2014.
In the first quarter, Forte went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season.
The paid attendance was 52,364 in the finale of the first season at TCF Bank Stadium and, unlike the previous couple games, the announced attendance was pretty accurate as few empty seats were visible.
See what Vikings fans are saying here