Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

Notebook: Minnesota Vikings end disappointing season on high note

The 2016 Minnesota Vikings have gone from the penthouse to the outhouse this season, but the offense closed out the year with a resounding win over Chicago in which the offense hit on all cylinders.

The 2016 Minnesota Vikings season has witnessed the highest of highs and the depth of lows that few teams have ever gone through in one season. The team’s final game of the season Sunday was seen as a stepping stone on the first day of 2017 that would be an attempt to start building momentum for next season, as the team will look to reclaim its NFC North title.

In hammering the Chicago Bears 38-10, the Vikings put together one of their best offensive performances of the season, jumping out to an early lead and never letting Chicago get back within striking distance.

“We came into the game with a chip on our shoulder and things were working for us early,” guard Brandon Fusco said. “It was a good feeling to get off to a fast start and do the kind of things that we’ve thought we could do all season.”

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The Vikings mixed and matched a lot of players. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata combined to rush for 103 yards and catch six passes for 52 more yards. Seven different players caught passes and the offense produced 31 points.

One key contributor was wide receiver Jarius Wright. Coming into Sunday’s game, he had caught just six passes. Against the Bears, he caught five passes and scored a touchdown, getting a little of his frustration with the season out of his system.

“It was just good to get out there with my guys,” Wright said. “We clicked offensively and were able to move the ball up and down the field. It was a lot of fun and it was great to be a part of it. From start to finish, I think this was the best game we had since Houston.”

It was the mixing things up that kept the Bears from getting a bead on what the Vikings offense was bringing next. After being accused of being too predictable, Asiata loved the idea that the Bears defense was on its heels most of the day.

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“The fun part for us was that got we got so many people involved,” Asiata said. “We were able switch guys in and out, complete passes, run the ball, keep them off balance and put points on the board. When you do that, games are fun and this one was really fun.”

For many, Sunday’s Vikings-Bears game was viewed as a mere formality, but, for guys like Kyle Rudolph, who had a giant day by catching 11 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, it meant much more.

The Vikings went down in 2016, but when it came time to draw the curtain on the season, they went down fighting.

“I just knew it was important for us to come out here today and have a good showing,” Rudolph said. “We wanted to end the year on a positive note. Most people may say this game was meaningless, but any time you go out there and step on the field, you’re putting yourself on tape and the whole world is watching. When you get in between those lines, there are no meaningless games.”

GAME DAY NOTES

  • Sam Bradford made the all-time NFL record book Sunday. He entered play Sunday with a 71.3 percent completion percentage, only slightly ahead of the record set by Drew Brees in 2011 of 71.2. On Sunday he completed 25 of 33 passes (75.8 percent), to finish at 71.6 percent.
  • Bradford also had his seventh game with a passer rating above 100, finishing with a rating of 114.5 by virtue of throwing for 250 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Bradford entered Sunday’s game fourth overall for single-season completions with 370. In the first quarter, he passed both of Warren Moon’s records from 1994 (371) and 1995 (377). He set the new record in the second quarter passing Daunte Culpepper’s mark of 379 set in 2004. Bradford raised the bar even higher by finishing the year with 395 completions.
  • Rudolph set a couple franchise records Sunday. He came into action needing to catch eight passes for the franchise single-season reception record for tight ends that was set by Joe Senser with 79 receptions in 1981. Rudolph caught 11 passes, setting the new mark with 83 receptions.
  • Rudolph scored his 29th career touchdown in the second quarter, breaking the franchise record he had shared with Steve Jordan.
  • With all the big offensive players, Adam Thielen was not one of them on Sunday. He needed just 40 yards to reach 1,000 yards for the season, becoming the first player to achieve that accomplishment since Sidney Rice in 2009. Thielen caught one pass for seven yards and was only targeted on the one play.
  • Linval Joseph had seven tackles to get to an even 100 for the season, setting a new team record for defensive tackles. Kevin Williams had the franchise record for defensive tackles with 98.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson won his third kick-return title, finishing the season averaging 31.7 yards per return.
  • T.J. Clemmings left in the first quarter with an elbow injury. He was replaced by Rashod Hill and didn’t return, yet another different incarnation of the Vikings offensive line this season.
  • McKinnon had his best day of the season, rushing 16 times for 89 yards and a rushing TD. It included a 36-yard run in the fourth quarter, the longest run of the season for the Vikings.
  • The Vikings limited Chicago to converting on just two of nine third downs in the game. Minnesota converted six of 12 third downs.
  • The Bears had more yards rushing (183) than passing (140), led by Jordan Howard, who ran 23 times for 135 yards.
  • Jeff Locke only punted twice all day and one of those punts was fumbled.
  • The Vikings had just two penalties for 15 yards.
  • Minnesota’s defense had one of those plays that was typical of the defense earlier in the season. On a third-down pass play, Barkley was sacked by Danielle Hunter and Joseph and fumbled. Anthony Barr slapped the ball forward, away from a diving Bears player, and Everson Griffen scooped it up for a touchdown to give the Vikings a 38-10 lead.
  • On the play in question, a couple of Barr’s teammates admitted he slapped the ball forward, which likely would have made it a dead ball when it was recovered, but Barr refused to say the play was intentional, saying, “I tried to get the ball and it happened to go forward. That’s my story.”
  • McKinnon came into Sunday’s game with two touchdowns – one rushing, one receiving. He scored two touchdowns against the Bears to double his total to two rushing, two receiving.
  • The Vikings’ first drive of the second half was a 14-play marathon that took seven minutes and covered 68 yards, but the drive ended when Bradford threw an interception in the end zone.
  • The first two drives of the second half got close to the red zone, but both ended with interceptions. Chicago’s first drive of the second half ended when Barkley was intercepted by Trae Waynes.
  • The teams combined for 458 yards of offense in the first half, the Vikings gaining 244 yards on 35 plays and the Bears picking up 211 yards on 31 plays.
  • In the first half, Bradford completed 17 of 22 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns. Rudolph caught seven of them for 75 yards and a touchdown, Wright caught four passes for 22 yards and a score, and six different receivers had at least one catch.
  • Thielen had just one catch for seven yards in the first half.
  • Howard, who ran for 153 yards in the first meeting between the teams, had 93 yards on 15 carries in the first half. He went over 100 yards on his first carry of the second half.
  • The final minute of the first half was crazy, as both teams put points on the board in unexpected ways. It started with a Vikings punt that was fumbled by Bralon Addison and recovered by Jayron Kearse on the Bears 21-yard line. The Vikings turned the turnover into a touchdown, as Bradford hit Wright for a 1-yard score to give the Vikings a 24-7 lead. But, after Deonte Thompson returned the ensuing kick 64 yards leaving just nine seconds on the clock, Barkley hit Cameron Meredith for a 31-yard pass on a leaping catch, allowing the Bears to kick a field goal to cut the deficit to 24-10 at halftime.
  • Chicago ate up most of the second quarter on one drive, marching 85 yards on a whopping 17 plays, taking almost eight minutes off the clock. The drive end with some trickery, as the Bears had a direct snap to Howard, who gave the ball to Meredith on a reverse and he threw a pass to a wide open Barkley to cap the drive and cut the Vikings lead to 17-7.
  • The Vikings got the first turnover of the game when Jeremy Langford ran into his own blocker and fumbled, which was recovered by Anthony Harris on the Chicago 35-yard line. It took the offense just three plays to take advantage, as Bradford completed passes of 13 and 22 yards to Rudolph – the second being a touchdown that increased Minnesota’s lead to 17-0.
  • Minnesota’s second drive of the game was a 14-play, 93-yard marathon that took 7:33 off the clock, ending seven seconds into the second quarter.
  • The Vikings ran the ball extensively on their second drive, including a 29-yard scramble from Bradford. McKinnon added 17 yards on three carries.
  • The Vikings dominated the first quarter stats, outgaining the Bears 164-59. Minnesota picked up eight first downs, throwing for 109 yards and rushing for 55 more.
  • Bradford had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in the first quarter, completing all eight of his passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. Patterson led the way with 39 yards on one receptions and Asiata, Wright and Rudolph all had receptions.
  • Chicago’s first drive included a lot of running, as Howard carried five times for 26 yards and wide receiver Josh Bellamy took a reverse for 22 yards. But, once in the red zone, Barkley went for a touchdown and was picked off by Xavier Rhodes – his fifth pick of the season and seventh of his career.
  • The Vikings got off to a fast start, scoring on the first drive of the game – driving 70 yards on six plays. Bradford completed all four of his passes for 64 yards, highlighted by a 39-yard bomb to Patterson and a 16-yard swing pass touchdown to McKinnon to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead just 3:24 into the game.
  • Minnesota Wild player Eric Haula sounded the Gjallarhorn prior to the start of the game.
  • The paid attendance was 68,808.

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