MINNEAPOLIS - It was the best-case scenario for the Minnesota Vikings as they wrapped up their first regular season under Kevin O’Connell with a 29-13 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field.
The Vikings head home with their first road division win of the season, finishing the regular season 13-4 and are the No. 3 seed for the NFC Playoffs after the San Francisco 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals 38-13. The Vikings will host the No. 6 seed New York Giants next weekend in the Wild Card Playoffs at U.S. Bank Stadium.
No key starters suffered injuries Sunday, and most stood and watched the second half from the sidelines.
Sunday’s win marks the third time in franchise history the Vikings have won 13 games in a season.
"What I wanted to do was get our 13th win today, have everybody available and ready to play while getting out of here pretty healthy and ready to roll for next week. That was goal No. 1," O'Connell said after the win. "Getting win No. 13 was very important to all of us.
Alexander Mattison had 10 carries for 54 yards and two touchdowns. Kirk Cousins was 17-of-20 for 225 yards, and a first quarter touchdown to Adam Thielen. Cousins finished the regular season with 4,547 yards, 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. It’s his fourth straight 4,000-yard season. He'll be in the NFC Playoffs for the second time with the Vikings.
"I think 13 wins is an outstanding year. When you look at a regular season, that’s hard to do. It doesn’t just happen," Cousins said. "The playoffs, you kind of throw the records out at that point. You’ve just got to go play and earn it one play at a time."
Justin Jefferson had four catches for 38 yards, and ends the regular season with 128 catches for 1,809 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s one of six receivers to get at least 1,800 receiving yards in a season, though he came up short of Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964.
"My main goal was 1,800, coming off 1,600 last year. Of course I wanted to excel that goal and get to 2,000. It’s just another opportunity for next year, something to strive for," Jefferson said. "As long as we’re in the playoffs, it doesn’t really matter. It’s disappointing individually, but there’s so much more to fight for than the record."
K.J. Osborn led the Vikings with five catches for 117 yards. Jalen Nailor had four catches for 63 yards, and C.J. Ham added four catches for 47 yards. Despite missing an extra point, Greg Joseph was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals.
The Vikings scored the game’s first 16 points before Velus Jones Jr. scored from 42 yards out in the second quarter. With a 16-6 lead at the half, Nick Mullens started the third quarter for the Vikings and promptly led a scoring drive that ended with Mattison’s second touchdown of the day.
Defensively, Patrick Peterson got his fifth interception of the season. Duke Shelley, playing against his former team, got his first career interception off Nathan Peterman in the fourth quarter. The Vikings were without Garrett Bradbury, Za’Darius Smith, Harrison Smith, Brian Asamoah and Cam Dantzler, who were all inactive.
One of the weirdest stats in a crazy 17-game season: The Vikings won 13 games, but had a -3 point differential. They gave up 427 points, and scored 424. That’s largely in part to 11 wins by one score, and three blowout losses.
The Vikings now know they're the No. 3 seed and hosting the New York Giants for Wild Card Weekend. The NFL announced that game will be played at 3:30 p.m. next Sunday, and you can watch it on Fox 9. On Christmas Eve, the Vikings beat the Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium on Joseph's career-long 61-yard field goal as timed expired.
"The real season starts now. The 17-week, 18-week season is pretty much make-up. Now it’s time to play some complimentary football, play with one another," Peterson said. "We have to understand everything matters, every snap matters, every second on the clock matters and we have to be dialed in for 60 minutes."