MINNEAPOLIS - It has been anything but easy, but the Minnesota Vikings are 4-1 after rallying for a 29-22 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Kevin O’Connell era is off to a 3-0 start in the NFC North, all with division wins at home, and a nail-biter in London against the New Orleans Saints. The wins haven’t been pretty, but at the end of the day all that really matters is getting the win. Three straight weeks, the Vikings have had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to do so.
Sunday, they needed a touchdown drive from Kirk Cousins and a key turnover from Cam Dantzler to seal the victory. Here are takeaways from their latest win:
FINDING A WAY TO WIN
The Vikings raced out to a 21-3 lead, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions. The Bears answered with 19 straight points, and had a 22-21 lead with 9:26 to play. Cousins and the Vikings then went on a 17-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Cousins scoring on a sneak. They converted five third downs on the drive, and were 12-of-15 on third down for the day. It shouldn’t have come down to a fourth quarter drive, but Cousins had the answer when his number was called.
"It was just still normal offense with an urgency to try to finish with points. Once we got into field goal range, there was no hesitation on my part to make sure we stayed aggressive and tried to get down in the low red," O’Connell said Monday. "To get four touchdowns on our four trips down there was a real positive."
DALVIN COOK’S BIG DAY
Dalvin Cook didn’t hit the 100-yard barrier on the day, but he had arguably his best game of the season for the Vikings. He had 18 carries for 94 yards, and a pair of first half touchdowns. Battling a shoulder injury, he looked like the Cook fans are used to seeing. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry, and had several runs either at or over 10 yards. He also caught a double pass from Justin Jefferson that set up the third touchdown of the day.
GAME BALLS TO COUSINS, JEFFERSON, DANZTLER, DARRISAW
Locker rooms are always more fun after a win, and O’Connell handed out four game balls after a 4-1 start. One went to Kirk Cousins, who set a franchise record with 17 straight completions to open the game, breaking Tommy Kramer’s previous mark. One went to Jefferson, who finished with a single-game career-high 12 catches for 154 yards. He broke Randy Moss’s record for career catches in his first three seasons. Another went to Cam Dantzler, who had eight tackles and sealed the win after a tough second half, ripping the ball away from former teammate Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
The last game ball went to Christian Darrisaw, who largely kept Cousins clean while dealing with Robert Quinn all afternoon.
CONCERNS ON SPECIAL TEAMS?
After special teams helped carry the Vikings over the Saints in London, they were a problem on Sunday. Greg Joseph missed a field goal from 54 yards out and had another blocked. He’s now missed four straight from 50-plus yards. Ryan Wright shanked a punt, and there wasn’t much in the return game. Is O’Connell worried about Joseph? We all know how Mike Zimmer felt about kickers.
"My confidence in Greg will not waver. I expect him when he goes out there to make those kicks, and I’m going to continue to give him opportunities. You never know when that three points can be a difference-maker," O’Connell said.
O’Connell offered injury updates on Ty Chandler, Akayleb Evans and Lewis Cine. Chandler suffered a broken thumb on special teams, and is expected to miss multiple weeks. It’s not clear if the Vikings will put him on injured reserve. Evans is in the concussion protocol after recovering an onside kick Sunday. O’Connell said he’s doing well.
Cine was back at TCO Performance Center on Monday and with his teammates in the training room after suffering a gruesome leg injury in London. He had surgery on a compound fracture in his lower left leg, but is now back in Minnesota and starting the rehab process.
"It was awesome to see him down with our guys in the training room, he’s in great spirits, he looks great," O’Connell said.
The Vikings take their 4-1 record to south beach this week, facing the Miami Dolphins with their quarterback situation in flux.