MINNEAPOLIS – How much was at stake depended on your opinion.
At stake for the Bears was a chance to get a first round bye with a victory over the Vikings while at the same time knocking a division rival out of the playoffs. Yet the odds of the Rams losing to the 49ers, which had to happen for Matt Nagy’s team to jump into the Top 2 of the NFC, were pretty remote. Plus with no lower than a third seed locked up, there were some arguments that getting some players rest late might be more beneficial for the NFC North champs.
Yet Nagy kept his starters on the field the entire way against the Vikings at US Bank Stadium, all in hopes of finishing the year strong.
Indeed the Bears did so, defeating the Vikings 24-10 and knocking them out of the postseason. They won their 12th game of the season, the most since the 2006 campaign. Since the Rams beat the 49ers 48-32, the Bears will face the Eagles in the Wild Card round next Saturday or Sunday.
Jordan Howard got the Bears off to a great start on the first drive as he got a 42-yard gain then a six-yard touchdown rush to put the team up 7-0. Receiver Anthony Miller did injure his shoulder during the drive and didn’t return to the game.
As the defense held the Vikings’ offense to 49 yards in the first half, the offense got on the board again as a 41-yard pass from Mitchell Trubisky to Taylor Gabriel set up a short touchdown from Howard to make it 13-0 after Cody Parkey missed the extra point.
Minnesota would get a field goal late in the first half then get the contest closer in the third on a 92-yard drive by Kirk Cousins. Aided by a 4th-and-1 conversion by Dalvin Cook, the quarterback hit Stephon Diggs for a 2-yard score to make it 13-10.
Trubisky got it back on the next drive as he took the Bears 75 yards down field, completing it with a handoff to Tarik Cohen for a two-yard touchdown. He threw to linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski on a trick two-point conversion play to make it 21-10.
Parkey redeemed himself from his previous miss later in the fourth with a 42-yard field goal to make it 24-10.