The Vikings started with the ball and moved across midfield, picking up first downs on completions to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but had to punt when Sam Bradford’s third-down pass to Thielen was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Minnesota’s defense was gashed early when Jordan Howard took a simple run 69 yards when Harrison Smith missed a tackle and rookie Jayron Kearse was out of position. Eventually, Xavier Rhodes caught up and pushed Howard out of bounds at the 13-yard line. When the Vikings held inside the red zone, the Bears took a 3-0 lead with a 30-yard Connor Barth field goal.
The Vikings struggled on offense throughout the quarter, getting only those two first downs on their first of four possessions and totaling 51 yards. The Bears got two big plays, the run by Howard and a 24-yard pass to Cameron Meredith at the end of the quarter.
The Bears got another big play against the Vikings defense to start the second quarter when Minnesota rushed six and Jay Cutler improvised with a shovel pass that Howard took 34 yards inside the 20. Once again, the Vikings held inside the red zone and forced a 28-yard field goal.
The defense wouldn’t be that fortunate after another quick three-and-out by the offense. They had Cutler where they wanted him on third-and-9 and pressured, but the QB improvised with a shovel pass to Howard that went 11 yards for a first down. After a 21-yard pass to TE Zach Miller, Howard took a 2-yard touchdown run around right end untouched for a 13-0 Chicago lead.
The Vikings countered with their first scoring drive of the game to close out the first half, but that only came because of a Chicago penalty after a third-down sack of Bradford. The Vikings’ biggest play of the half came on a 21-yard pass to Thielen to get inside the red zone, but once again the short-yardage offense failed them. Facing first-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Matt Asiata gained 1 yard combined on two straight carries and Bradford was sacked on third down, bringing on Blair Walsh for a 30-yard field goal to send the Vikings to the locker room trailing 13-3.
The Vikings averaged only 2.9 yards per play, gaining only six first downs and 95 yards of offense on 33 plays. Bradford was only 8-for-16 for 79 yards and the Vikings gained only 37 yards rushing on 13 carries. Meanwhile, Jordan Howard rushed 11 times for 97 yards and caught three passes for 48 yards.
The Bears took the opening kickoff of the second half and got Alshon Jeffery involved. He converted a third down with a 34-yard reception against Xavier Rhodes and then, with Rhodes out later in the drive, Jeffery took advantage of Trae Waynes for an 11-yard touchdown and 20-3 Bears lead.
That score would hold up as third quarter wrapped up.
The Vikings didn’t show much urgency to start the fourth quarter, punting from midfield after Bradford took his fifth sack of the game, but eventually were able to get it into the end zone by picking up yards underneath the coverage. Asiata slipped open for a 31-yard pass play to near midfield, and after a few more short passes Bradford hit Stefon Diggs for a 29-yard touchdown to pull the Vikings within 10 points, 20-10, with 5:41 to play.
However, that would be as close as they would get as they couldn’t stop Howard on the final drive as he gave the Bears three first downs and pushed his rushing total to 153 yards.
The Vikings yielded 403 yards of offense and gained only 258.
Bradford finished with 228 yards on 23 of 37 passing with one touchdown late and taking five sacks, and the running game (18 rushes, 57 yards) continued to struggle.
The Minnesota Vikings continue to play with backups filling in for starters and that will extend to special teams Monday night against the Chicago Bears.
Punt returner Marcus Sherels is inactive with a wrist injury that special teams coordinator Mike Priefer believes contributed to his fumble last week while trying to field a punt after it bounced. Adam Thielen is likely to return punts in place of Sherels.
However, Cordarrelle Patterson, who was questionable on Saturday while going through the concussion protocol, is active for the Vikings.
Vikings inactives: Jerick McKinnon, S Andrew Sendejo, WR Jarius Wright, C Zac Kerin, DT Sharrif Floyd, TE MyCole Pruitt and Sherels.
Bears inactives: DT Eddie Goldman, RG Kyle Long, LG Josh Sitton, WR Eddie Royal, TE Daniel Brown, DB Bryce Callahan and DB Deiondre’ Hall.