Minnesota Vikings Week 15 Preview: Chicago Bears

The Vikings come into this one 6-7 on the season after a 26-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, due largely to an inept kicking game. The Bears head to Minneapolis with an identical 6-7 record thanks to a 36-7 drubbing of the Houston Texans.


CHICAGO BEARS

Chicago’s offense has made some strides in the past two weeks with Bill Lazor calling the plays.

The Bears opened with a bang against Houston when David Montgomery raced 80 yards for a touchdown on the Bears’ first play from scrimmage. Houston’s second drive ended when Khalil Mack fell on a Duke Johnson fumble at the Houston 41-yard line. After exchanging punts, the Bears struck paydirt again after a 12-play, 79-yard drive ended in a Mitchell Trubisky to Jimmy Graham five-yard touchdown pass.

Houston would cut the lead in half with an 80-yard, eight-play drive, capped by a DeShaun Watson to Keke Coutee five-yard touchdown pass with just over eight and one-half minutes to play in the first half.

Houston would hold Chicago and get the ball back, but Watson was sacked on consecutive plays, the second ending in Mack recording a safety. On the ensuing drive, the Bears would move 66 yards in five plays, with Trubisky hitting Darnell Mooney with a 12-yard touchdown pass and a 23-7 lead at 3:22 left before halftime.

Chicago’s defense would hold again, and on their final possession of the half, Trubisky would throw his third touchdown pass. This time, the recipient was Allen Robinson II from three yards away and Chicago was comfortably ahead, 30-7, heading to the locker room.

The second half was pretty much a run-out-the-clock situation with the only scores being Cairo Santos field goals of 39 and 32 yards, respectively, leading to the 36-7 final.

Watson would throw for 219 yards and a touchdown on 21-of-30 passing. Buddy Howell was Houston’s top rusher, picking up 42 yards on 11 carries. Chad Hansen led the receivers with 56 yards on seven catches. On the day, Houston would muster just 263 yards of total offense.

Trubisky had a strong game, completing 24-of-33 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Montgomery’s 80-yard run led to a 113 yard day on just 11 carries. Robinson led all receivers with 123 yards and a touchdown on nine catches.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Despite an almost two-to-one minute edge in time of possession, Minnesota could not finish off drives.

The Vikings took a 6-0 lead on a Dalvin Cook one-yard run, but Dan Bailey would miss the extra point, then later, a 36-yard field goal. A Tom Brady to Scotty Miller 48-yard touchdown pass gave Tampa a 7-6 lead. The Bucs would score 10 points in the final 44 seconds of the first half, the last three aided by a 46-yard pass interference penalty, in taking a 17-6 halftime lead.

Brady hit his old friend, Rob Gronkowski, with a two-yard touchdown pass on Tampa’s first second-half possession. Kirk Cousins would hit Irv Smith, Jr. with a 14-yard touchdown pass then Justin Jefferson for the two-point conversion, getting them to within 23-14. After a stop by the defense, the Vikings drove to the Tampa 13-yard line, but back-to-back sacks were followed by Bailey’s third missed field goal of the game, this one from 46-yards out. Ryan Succop would knock home a 48-yard field goal with 5:16 to play, essentially ending the game.

Brady would complete 15-of-23 passes for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Ronald Jones II picked up 80 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Mike Evans was Tampa’s top receiver getting 56 yards on three carries with beleaguered wide receiver Antonio Brown adding 49 yards on five catches.

Kirk Cousins played well in the loss, completing 24-of-37 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown. He added 41 rushing yards on five carries. Dalvin Cook pounded out 102 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries to lead all rushers. The Minnesota tight ends led the receiving corps as Irv Smith, Jr. had 63 yards and a touchdown on four catches while fill-in starter Ty Conklin had 50 yards on five catches.


PREDICTION

Chicago seems to have found something on offense. Trubisky has limited mistakes and led his team to back-to-back 30-point games. Montgomery can be explosive out of the backfield, but aside from that 80-yard run, picked up just 33 yards on 10 carries. Allen Robinson II is one of the best wideouts in the game despite being the only legitimate threat the Bears have in the passing game.

Cousins has been playing well since Minnesota’s bye week and Cook is still making punishing runs despite taking on an oversized work load. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen make up a lethal receiving combination, and Irv Smith, Jr. back from injury doesn’t hurt.

The problems for Minnesota lie in a defense with no pass rush and Marwan Malouf’s sad excuse for a special teams unit. If Eric Kendricks is out again, it could be a long day for Minnesota. D.J. Wonnum and Ifeadi Odenigbo must get pressure on Trubisky, and the linebackers need to contain him should he get free from the pocket. Dan Bailey has missed five field goals and a three extra points in the past two weeks. He has the equivalent of a golfer getting the yips with his putter.

I think this game stays close like the first meeting, but the Vikings’ inability to pressure Trubisky and Bailey’s issues will be the difference.

I’m picking Chicago, 27-25.

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