January 9, 2023
CHICAGO (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings wanted nothing more than to wash away the bitter taste from a blowout loss and head into the postseason on a sweeter note.
This was more like it.
Kirk Cousins threw for 225 yards and a touchdown in the first half and watched the rest of the way as the NFC North champion Vikings tuned up for the playoffs by beating the Chicago Bears 29-13 on Sunday.
Cousins led three scoring drives as the Vikings (13-4), who’ll host the New York Giants next Sunday, grabbed a 16-6 halftime lead. They remained in control the rest of the way after getting blown out at Green Bay the previous week. It was the first time since Week 1 that Minnesota won by more than one score, and the team finished the year outscored by opponents 427-424.
“You don’t feel good all week and you’re disappointed and it kind of carries with you,” Cousins said. “And to be able to come back out on the field and compete and play a cleaner game and be sharp, I think it does help. But I don’t think you ever forget what happened last Sunday or what happened in Week 2 against the Eagles.”
The Bears (3-14), who held out star Justin Fields, set a franchise record with their 14th loss and extended one by dropping their 10th game in a row. Only the 1969 team that went 1-13 had a worse record.
Chicago also got a big win by landing the No. 1 pick in the draft. The loss combined with Houston prevailing 32-31 at Indianapolis put Chicago in the top spot for the first time since 1947.
“Whoever comes in, we’re going to change things around,” safety Jaquan Brisker said. “So have his mentality right. Whoever we get, hopefully it’s somebody great. It’s time to turn it around.”
Cousins bounced back from a rough outing, completing 17 of 20 passes while posting a sparkling 130.2 rating. He hit K.J. Osborn for a 66-yard completion on Minnesota’s first possession, setting up a 4-yard touchdown to Adam Thielen, and led two more scoring drives.
Nick Mullens came on in the third quarter and was 11 of 13 for 116 yards and an interception. Osborn had 117 yards on five catches. Justin Jefferson added four receptions for 38 yards, boosting his team-record totals to 128 and 1,809 on the season.
Alexander Mattison ran for a career-high two touchdowns, scoring from the 1 in both the second and third quarters.
“Offensively, I thought we stacked good plays,” coach Kevin O’Connell said. “Even when there were some exotic kind of (defensive back) pressures to try to stop some of our run game, we were able to overcome those things.”
Fields’ pursuit of the NFL single-season rushing record for a quarterback ended when the Bears announced during the week he would miss the game because of a strained hip and Nathan Peterman would start in his place.
Peterman completed 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in his fifth career start and first since 2018 with Buffalo.
Tim Boyle played the second quarter and came back into the game late in the fourth. He threw two interceptions and completed just 2 of 8 passes.
Velus Jones Jr. had a 42-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The Bears finished with 118 yards rushing, giving them a franchise-record 3,014 on the season and surpassing the previous mark of 2,974 in 1984.
“We didn’t have the season we wanted to, but it’s about everybody coming back to work and putting their all into this organization for the Bears,” Jones said. “Everybody take a mental break this offseason, but get back to work and better yourself.”
The Vikings, plagued by slow starts, needed just four plays on their first possession of the game to grab a 6-0 lead.
Cousins hit a wide open Osborn for a 66-yard pass to the 4, then connected with Thielen for a TD. Greg Joseph’s extra point sailed wide right — his sixth miss in 44 attempts.
Minnesota added to the lead early in the second quarter when Mattison scored from the 1 to cap a 12-play drive.
Boyle, who played for Green Bay when Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was the Packers’ quarterbacks coach, took over on Chicago’s fourth possession. He threw a long pass on third down that Patrick Peterson picked off with no receivers near him and returned 28 yards to the 35. Joseph kicked a field goal to make it 16-0.
Vikings: O’Connell said LB Za’Darius Smith (personal matter) and S Harrison Smith (sore knee) to be available next week. Za’Darius Smith traveled separately from the team to Chicago. O’Connell wasn’t sure if Garrett Bradbury (back) would be. … CB Chandon Sullivan (knee contusion) and RB Dalvin Cook (cleat to the leg) got banged up, but should be ready for next week.
Bears: DB Elijah Hicks (concussion) left in the third quarter. … WR Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) was also hurt.
Vikings: Will host the New York Giants in a wild-card game next Sunday.
Bears: All eyes will be on general manager Ryan Poles — particularly with the No. 1 pick — as he tries to surround Fields with the talent he needs and improve a shaky defense.