CHICAGO — Two passers throwing their first career touchdowns. A double reverse pitch to the quarterback for a two-point conversion. A fake punt pass.
The Chicago Bears pulled out all the stops Monday night, Oct. 9, but it was the Minnesota Vikings walking away with an NFC North divisional victory, 20-17.
The defense, a week after dropping several potential interceptions against Detroit last week, forced two key turnovers that resulted in points. Everson Griffen strip sacked rookie Mitchell Trubisky, with Linval Joseph recovering the ball deep in Chicago territory that led to a Forbath field goal. Safety Harrison Smith later picked off Trubisky to set up Forbath’s game-winning field goal, a 26-yarder with eight seconds remaining.
Minnesota saw the return of starting quarterback Sam Bradford, but his night went south in a hurry. Bradford, the quarterback who tore up defenses to set the NFL season passing percentage record in 2016 and triggered a hot start for the Vikings in 2017, was erratic, in his return from a knee injury that kept him out of the past three games.
Bradford was sacked four times in the first half, including once for a safety, while completing just five of his 11 pass attempts for 36 yards.
“Obviously the first half wasn’t very pretty,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We didn’t play our best, but our guys battled, played hard.”
Case Keenum was once again pressed into duty for the Vikings, replacing Bradford on the first half’s final drive. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Bradford re-aggravated his knee injury on one of the hits he took from the Chicago defense.
“We wouldn’t have put (Bradford) on the field if he wasn’t healthy enough to play,” Zimmer said. “He was very confident about it. He felt good about it, medical people felt good about it, everybody. We practiced on turf two days this week, too, so that’s even a bit harder on your legs. I don’t think there was any doubt whatsoever he was ready to go.”
Keenum took advantage of several quick throws on short routes to amass 17 completions on 21 attempts for 140 yards. He opened the second half with a 13-yard strike to tight end Kyle Rudolph for Minnesota’s first touchdown, but the Bears took advantage of a special teams blunder the following drive to strike back. Chicago punter Pat O’Donnell lobbed the ball to backup running back Benny Cunningham from a punt formation for 38 yards, resulting in O’Donnell’s first career touchdown pass.
“Great throw; he was patient,” Cunningham said. “Throughout the week we talked, missed it a couple times. We did some extra reps yesterday.”
Minnesota answered back with a 58-yard touchdown run from Jerick McKinnon on the following drive.
Trubisky and the Bears responded with a 20-yard pass that was tipped to Zach Miller, then tied the game on a double reverse that ended with Miller pitching the ball to Trubisky for a two-point conversion.
“That tip play was unfortunate,” Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks said. “Good defense, though. It’s going to be scrappy like this sometimes.
“Not the prettiest game, but we will take it. A division win. We’re in Chicago, it’s always hard to win here.”
McKinnon led the team in both rushing yards (98) and receiving yards (51) in the team’s first game without injured rookie Dalvin Cook in the backfield.
“He had great plays, and he was out there returning kicks,” Keenum said. “I know everyone has confidence in (McKinnon) and Latavius (Murray) too.”