It wasn't the prettiest, but you don't ever have to apologize for winning an NFL game. Especially when it's on the road.
The Minnesota Vikings improved to 3-2, and 1-1 in the NFC North Division, after beating the Chicago Bears 20-17 on Monday Night Football. Kai Forbath's 26-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining sealed the victory. It was a big win for the Vikings, with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers coming to Minneapolis on Sunday.
What did we learn from the victory? Sam Bradford isn't close to being ready to play, Case Keenum is capable of running an offense and Jerick McKinnon made big strides after being put into a more full-time role.
Here are four takeaways from the win over the Bears.
Sam Bradford Shows He's Not Ready
Sam Bradford was limited all week in practice, but he was at least on the field. He said he was ready and his coaches put him on the field, but his play said something entirely different. Bradford's knee is clearly still hurting, and he should never have seen the field. He finished just 5-of-11 passing for only 36 yards.
But it was the way he played that showed he knows he's not ready. He was tentative, didn't put much weight on his bad knee and even took a sack in the end zone to give Chicago the early lead. At the first sign of any contact, sometimes by his own teammates, he hit the turf to prevent further injury. His body language was far worse than his injury. He appeared frustrated, and even disinterested at times. After having a career game in Week 1, he has to be hurting for his production to drop this far. Vikings trainer Eric Sugarman said Tuesday Bradford did not suffer a new injury Monday night and is dealing with "wear and tear" on his knee. He did not rule out Bradford playing in future games.
But for now, Case Keenum is the quarterback, and Teddy Bridgewater could return to practice in a week.
Case Keenum Steps In, Takes Over Offense
The Vikings took a 3-2 lead into halftime, and Bradford's play virtually made Mike Zimmer's decision for him. He couldn't play, and Case Keenum had to take over. Keenum was ready, and answered the call. He finished 17-of-21 passing for 140 yards and a touchdown to Kyle Rudolph. More importantly, he engineered three scoring drives in the second half after the Vikings had done nothing with Bradford in the first half.
Keenum was decisive, made plays and didn't turn the ball over. The Vikings are one of only three teams left in the NFL who have yet to throw an interception. He's the quarterback and now the leader of the offense, at least until Bradford gets healthy (if he ever does) or Bridgewater proves he can play again. Keenum helped save the Vikings in a game they absolutely had to win.
Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith Make Big Plays
Everson Griffen got paid in the offseason, and he's been worth every penny to this point. He made a play late in the first half that gave the Vikings a mental edge the rest of the game. The Vikings offense had done nothing. He beat his man around the edge and stripped Mitchell Trubisky. The Vikings recovered, and got the lead at the half with a field goal despite a miserable offensive performance.
With Keenum running the show, the Vikings were putting drives together and scoring points. The Bears kept the game close with a perfectly-executed fake punt for a touchdown, another touchdown pass that should've been intercepted by Andrew Sendejo and a two-point conversion play that nobody for the Vikings saw coming. With the game tied and Chicago having a chance to drive for a game-winning field goal, Harrison Smith stepped in front of a Trubisky pass headed for Zach Miller and picked it off deep in Bears territory.
It paved the way for Kai Forbath's game-winning field goal. So in two key spots of a big game, your two biggest defensive stars came up with huge plays. That's a good recipe to win divisional games.
Jerick McKinnon Makes Big Leap
There were all sorts of questions surrounding the Vikings run game after Dalvin Cook went down with a season-ending knee injury last week. His injury opened the door for Latavius Murray, but it was Jerick McKinnon who took the spotlight Monday night. McKinnon led the Vikings with 16 carries, for 95 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown. He also had six catches out of the backfield for 51 yards. That's 146 total yards for the third option in the Vikings run game. That's also nearly half the Vikings total offense for the night.
If McKinnon can give the Vikings another weapon on offense, it could give them a big boost the rest of the year.
The Vikings have three big games coming up against the Packers, Ravens and Browns before their bye week. It's Keenum's team for now, pending what they do with Bridgewater next week.
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