For the Minnesota Vikings, the winning stretch in Sunday’s 38-17 blowout win over the Chicago Bears came late in the first half and early in the second half as the Vikings turned a close game into a blowout.
The Vikings had completely dominated the first half, but midway through the second quarter the Bears mounted a scoring drive that cut the lead to 10-7 and had all the looks of the kind of game the Bears win despite having a gross disparity in yardage for the opponent.
This time around, however, the Vikings would have none of it. Teddy Bridgewater led the Vikings on an eight-play scoring drive, highlighted by a 34-yard pass to Mike Wallace and a 17-yard touchdown to Jerick McKinnon – the first touchdown of his NFL career with just 26 seconds left to play in the half.
McKinnon made a point not to let that particular ball get out of his sight as the Vikings took back their 10-point lead before halftime. That one is going in the trophy case.
“I wasn’t about to give that one up,” McKinnon said. “Dennis (Ryan, the Vikings’ head equipment man) has it for me right now. It will be in my locker when I get there Monday morning. It will definitely be a moment that I will cherish for the rest of my career.”
But the fun wasn’t over for the Vikings. The second half started with the Bears attempting and succeeding on an onside kick. It gave the Bears the ball near midfield with a chance to seize momentum.
Once again, on this day, the Vikings were having none of it.
On his first drop-back after the recovery, Jay Cutler was pressured by the Vikings defensive front. Brian Robison, who had missed a couple of sacks earlier in the game, got a clean shot at Cutler and got the defensive trifecta – a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“I saw Cutler step up and he was kind of leaving the ball out there a little bit,” Robison said. “It was an opportunity to get the ball out and do something a little bit extra. Fortunately for us, it hanged the momentum right back to our way.”
Momentum had been with the Vikings for most of the first half, but the Bears took their one shot at stealing it away, only to have the grizzled veteran of the defensive line take over the game with his huge individual play.
Robison knew that the longer the Bears could keep the TCF Bank Stadium crowd quiet, the better their chance to stay in the game. He decided to grab momentum by the throat and take it away.
“You definitely want to try to change it back,” Robison said. “Any time you come out in the second half and make a big play like they did on the onside kick, you want to try to find a way to get the momentum back on your side. It was a huge play for us.”
It only took six plays for the Vikings to cash in on the turnover, as Bridgewater connected with Diggs for a 33-yard touchdown to give the Vikings a 24-7 lead that never would be significantly threatened after that.
The win has the Vikings on the brink of the playoffs and in a position to control their own playoff destiny in the final two weeks. For a team that has had its share of ups and downs, Sharrif Floyd believes we saw the real Vikings Sunday.
“I would definitely say this was one of the best games we’ve had at all phases of the game,” Floyd said. “We needed to come out strong and get things back on track to playing like we know we can on both sides of the football. This is the kind of game we needed to get momentum back with us.”
GAME DAY NOTES
- Sunday was the first time since the Vikings’ inaugural season of 1961 that a quarterback threw four touchdowns and ran in another – that last one being Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton.
- The Vikings had four drives of eight plays or more Sunday, resulting in three touchdowns and one field goal. It included touchdown drives of 75 and 88 yards.
- Adrian Peterson needed 55 rushing yards to remain the NFL’s rushing leader. He didn’t get it by much, rushing 18 times for 63 yards, but he remains the NFL’s top rusher with two games to play in the 2015 regular season.
- The last time Peterson led the league in rushing was in 2012, the last time the Vikings made the playoffs.
- Alshon Jeffery pulled a hamstring late in the first half and didn’t come out of the locker room to start the second half. He came back to play briefly in the second half, but ended up catching just one pass – a 10-yard touchdown.
- Zach Line scored his first career receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday.
- Justin Trattou had his second interception of the season, tying a franchise record of two interceptions by a defensive lineman in a season, joining Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Tim Newton to accomplish the feat. What makes his feat so impressive is that he has only been active for three games. “I saw their linemen starting to screen behind me, but I couldn’t locate the back,” Trattou said. “I just back up and watched (Cutler’s) eyes. He saw me and tried to float it up over my head, but I got up and was able to bring it down.”
- Stefon Diggs caught two of Bridgewater’s four touchdown passes Sunday – his first touchdown since the first Vikings-Bears game in Week 8.
- Diggs caught three passes, giving him 47 on the season. He passed Cordarrelle Patterson for fifth place on the all-time rookie reception list. With two games left, he trails Paul Flatley (51), Sammy White (51), Percy Harvin (60) and Randy Moss (69).
- The Vikings converted on eight of 12 third downs Sunday, including the plays that resulted in four of their five touchdowns.
- Minnesota got five sacks on Jay Cutler, who was under duress the entire game Sunday from the makeshift Vikings pass rush that was without Linval Joseph and had Everson Griffen playing part-time duty with a shoulder injury.
- The Vikings have struggled at times in the offensive red zone, but made good on all four of their chances Sunday, scoring four touchdowns.
- For the second straight game, Minnesota got big plays through the air. Bridgewater had three completions of 30 yards or more – 34 yards to Mike Wallace, 33 yards to Diggs and 30 yards to McKinnon.
- At halftime, the Vikings had limited the Bears to just 96 yards of total offense, while gaining 207 of their own.
- Bridgewater completed 11 of 14 passes in the first half for 156 yards and two touchdowns. In the second half, he completed all six passes he threw for 75 yards and two more TDs.
- On the second play of the second quarter, Blair Walsh was asked to bang home a 53-yard field goal. He made the kick, but it bounced off the left upright and went through to give the Vikings a 10-0 lead.
- The Vikings thoroughly dominated the first quarter, running 19 plays to just six for Chicago, outgaining the Bears 134-10 and holding the ball for 10 minutes of the quarter despite kicking off to start the game.
- Bridgewater had a passer rating of 152.0 in the first quarter, completing six of eight passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Peterson ran nine times for 39 yards.
- The Bears had the game’s first break when the opening kickoff was returned to the 50-yard line, but a holding call negated a 35-yard run by Matt Forte and a sack by Tom Johnson forced a punt. The Vikings were pinned on their own 7-yard line, but drove 93 yards on 13 plays to take a 7-0 lead with 5:44 to play in the first quarter, which set the tone for the entire game.
- Sunday was the 110th meeting between the Vikings and Bears. The Vikings hold a 57-51-2 advantage in the series.
- The home team has won 23 of last 28 games in the series and the Vikings have won four straight home meetings.
- Today was fifth anniversary of the first outdoor home game the Vikings had played in 30 years. It was played at TCF Bank Stadium following the collapse of the Metrodome roof and was the last NFL game played by Brett Favre.
- So much for the frozen tundra. The game time temperature was 37 degrees at kickoff.
- Longtime Minneapolis Star-Tribune sports columnist Side Hartman sounded the ceremonial Gjallarhorn to start the game.
- The paid attendance was 52,421.