Vikings outlast Bears for 19-13 win
CHICAGO - The Vikings held Chicago's inept offense to two first down in the second half and withstood a continuing series of special teams gaffes and a new raft of miscues that only seem to happen at Soldier Field for a 19-13 win on Monday night.
Kirk Cousins looked more self-assured in the Vikings' offense than he had in his previous two trips to Soldier Field, completing 14 of his 16 passes for 132 yards in the first half and lofting a perfect throw to Adam Thielen for a 17-yard score on a third-and-3 in the first quarter.
The Vikings' play design had Thielen in a bunched set with Justin Jefferson, who ran a crossing route from Thielen's left to create something of a natural pick for Thielen as he got a clean release against Buster Skrine. Cousins beat Skrine - the cornerback the Vikings targeted for much of the first half - with a precise throw to Thielen, who caught the ball with one hand as he was going to the ground, somehow flipping it in the crook of his arm to put it in a more secure position as he went to the ground.
Nick Foles, whose 16 passing attempts went for only 91 yards in the first half, looked nothing like the quarterback who fried the Vikings' defense in the 2018 NFC Championship Game.
But the Vikings' lead at halftime was only 7-6, thanks to a couple of the only-in-Chicago moments that seem to befall them every year.
On the Vikings' first offensive possession, Kyle Rudolph lost a fumble for the first time since 2014, when Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan punched the ball out just as the tight end's right knee was going to the ground. A replay didn't produce enough evidence to overturn the call on the field, though the Vikings got the ball back two plays later after Foles' throw was late and high to Anthony Miller, bouncing off the receiver's hands into the waiting arms of Harrison Smith.
Dan Chisena cost the Vikings 20 yards when he stepped into the end zone while fielding a punt at the Bears' goal line, and as Cousins threw for Thielen late in the first half, the receiver tried to catch the ball with his body as Khalil Mack approached. Mack took the ball out of Thielen's hands for an interception that set up a Bears field goal to make it 7-6 at halftime.
The first play of the second half brought more issues for the Vikings' special teams, courtesy of a thunderbolt from their past.
Cordarrelle Patterson's first career touchdown came at Soldier Field on a 105-yard kickoff return in Week 2 of the 2013 season against the Bears. From four yards deep in the end zone where he scored in 2013, Patterson took the second half kickoff 104 yards, feinting his way past Chisena and making Dan Bailey miss along the right sideline. The return man for whom the Vikings traded three picks in the 2013 draft was able to celebrate from 20 yards out, flashing a peace sign as he strutted into the end zone.
The Vikings' next two drives netted 24 yards on 10 plays, but thanks to the fact Dwayne Harris muffed a punt after the first one, the Vikings could kick a field goal after the second one.
Minnesota tied the game in the third quarter on a 43-yard field goal from Bailey. A holding penalty on Kyle Rudolph had wiped out a big run from Dalvin Cook, but Cousins connected on a 54-yard catch-and-run to Justin Jefferson, who surpassed 100 receiving yards for the fourth time as a rookie and helped the Vikings convert a third-and-11 that had the quarterback fired up after the play.
After a D.J. Wonnum sack triggered the Bears' third three-and-out of the second half, Cousins directed a drive that overcame Tyler Conklin's holding penalty while trying to block Khalil Mack. Cousins found Kyle Rudolph for 22 yards on first-and-20 and Jefferson for 14 yards to reach the red zone, where he went to work on Skrine again for a six-yard score to Thielen. A bad snap from Austin Cutting waylaid the Vikings' extra point attempt and made it 19-13.