It was far from the most prolific game in Minnesota Vikings (4-5) history, and after two historic games, Dalvin Cook will not be asked about this performance in 20 years. But when the Vikings entered Soldier Field to face off with the Chicago Bears (5-5), a place they had claimed victory only three times since the 2001 season, they were determined to stick to their game plan. Despite ebbs and flows that didn’t go as the team had hoped for, Minnesota stayed true to their offensive identity as they escaped Soldier Field with a rare win, defeating the Bears 19-13 on Monday Night Football.
Minnesota Vikings Offense Stays the Course in Monday Night Football Victory
Three Yards And A Cloud Of Dust
Following back-t0-back 200-plus yards in total offensive yardage, Cook knew that the Bears would be keying on stopping the star running back. Not only was his recent success going to garner their attention; the Bears had shut him down in his three previous career games against them. A defensive line that overwhelmed the interior of the Vikings offensive line in 2018 and 2019 had never allowed Cook to even accumulate 40 rushing yards. This led to the Minnesota Vikings offense abandoning the run game early and allowing pass rushers like Khalil Mack to pin their ears back and rush quarterback Kirk Cousins.
On Monday night, Cook ran 30 times for 96 yards, a modest total compared to his 2020 season. But more often than not, Cook was moving forward and keeping drives going, with a long run of 14 yards on the night. The willingness of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak to stick with the run allowed the Vikings to keep their play-action pass game rolling. With the balanced offense, albeit a bit ugly, the Bears were never able to get comfortable and play on their toes.
A Career First
With the running game alive, the passing game was able to run on schedule. Cousins finished 25-of-36 on the night for 292 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception that fell out of receiver Adam Thielen‘s hands and into the lap of Khalil Mack. This was the first victory for Kirk Cousins on Monday Night Football in 10 appearances. He was able to move around in the pocket as the play-action passes came open. The Bears were daring Cousins to beat them, and he did. He pushed the ball downfield when needed, attacking the intermediate game and finding rookie Justin Jefferson eight times for 135 yards. In the red zone, Cousins found Thielen twice for touchdowns, including a strike on the second offensive drive of the game that Thielen reeled in with one hand. Cousins threw a pass that he trusted Thielen could come up with, and the aggressive mindset helped the Vikings come out on top.
Weathering the Storm
Perhaps the most impressive part of the playcalling Monday night was how the Vikings responded to getting punched in the mouth. The interception by Mack before half killed a promising Minnesota drive and led to a Bears field goal. A kick return touchdown to open the half gave Chicago a 13-7 lead and they had momentum on their side. Minnesota opened up the second half with only one first down in three drives, and it appeared that the usual Soldier Field meltdown was inevitable.
However, down 13-10, the Vikings responded with two scoring drives that ended up being the difference. A seven-play, 60-yard drive included six passes, but Cousins hit Jefferson for 54 yards on third-and-11 and got Minnesota into field goal ranged. The drive ended with a 43-yard Dan Bailey field goal to tie the game.
Following a Bears three-and-out, the Vikings responded with a nine-play, 63-yard drive that included four Dalvin Cook runs for 27 yards, by far his most efficient drive of the night. With the Bears on their heels, Cousins found Thielen again for a six-yard touchdown on third-and-four that gave the Vikings the 19-13 lead.
The Last Word on the Minnesota Vikings Offense Performance on Monday
It wasn’t the most prolific game of the season for the Vikings, but against a formidable defense that has given Minnesota fits in recent memory, Kubiak may have called his best game of the season. The Vikings beat all three of their division foes in the past three weeks and now face perhaps the softest part of the schedule. The complimentary offense has the Vikings in position to make a late playoff push and a win over the Bears should give them the confidence that they can perform against any defense.