This Sunday, the Chicago Bears will finish their season by visiting the Minnesota Vikings. Neither team made the playoffs, so the Week 18 matchup marks the last hurrah for these NFC North foes. The Bears enter this one fresh off a 29-3 win over the New York Giants with a 6-10 overall record. Meanwhile, the Vikings own a 7-9 record after their 37-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 17.
Going into the final game of the season, there isn't much at stake for either team aside from the "personal pride," as Bears' head coach Matt Nagy would say.
These two teams have a rivalry that dates back to 1961. In those 60 years, the Bears and Vikings have squared off 121 times. The Bears are on the losing side of the head-to-head series with the Vikings, who lead 62-57-2. Additionally, the Vikings are outscoring the Bears 2,520 to 2,357.
Given their long-standing rivalry, it's surprising that the Bears and Vikings have only met in the playoffs on one occasion. That postseason game took place in 1995 when Chicago beat Minnesota 35-18 in the NFC Wild Card game.
The last time these two teams squared off wasn't that long ago. In fact, the Bears and Vikings played just 20 days ago at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football.
The Bears entered the Week 15 contest at 4-9 while the Vikings were 6-7 with their playoff aspirations still alive and well. Chicago was coming off a loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football the week prior. As for the Vikings, they prevailed over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football 10 days earlier.
The Bears were led by Matt Nagy and Justin Fields and the Vikings were rocking with Mike Zimmer and Kirk Cousins.
The game itself got off to a slow start. The Vikings got the ball first but didn't travel far. A six-play, 20-yard drive spanning 3:34 resulted in a punt. When the Bears took over on offense, their fate was similar. Chicago gained just five yards before going three-and-out. Then, the Vikings embarked on an eight-play, 54-yard drive to take an early 7-0 lead. Kirk Cousins connected with Justin Jefferson for a 12-yard touchdown that went just over the outstretched arms of Deon Bush.
In response, the Bears had a chance to tie the game. But on the fifth play of the drive, Justin Fields fumbled the ball on a scramble which gave the ball back to the Vikings. Minnesota put together an eight-play, 34-yard drive that stalled out when the Bears defense buckled down. Greg Joseph then kicked a 37-yard field goal to extend Minnesota's lead to 10-0.
To begin the second quarter, the Bears marched the ball down the field and got into scoring possession. Then, a David Montgomery run of -2 yards led to a challenge by the Vikings. Zimmer's decision was successful as Minnesota won the challenge when the replay showed Montgomery fumbling the ball and Minnesota clearly recovering it. The Bears wasted a golden scoring opportunity, but the defense held its own to force another Vikings punt.
As a result, the Bears put their first points of the game on the board. A 12-play, 49-yard drive spanning just under six minutes concluded with a Cairo Santos 34-yard field goal to cut the Vikings lead to 10-3. Subsequently, the Bears got the ball right back when Cousins threw up a pass intended for nobody on his team. Deon Bush intercepted the downfield heave just before halftime.
After gaining eight yards on four plays, the Bears lined up for another field goal attempt. This time, the Vikings blocked the 49-yard try to keep Chicago behind by seven. With just 28 seconds left before the break and decent field position, the Vikings tried getting into field goal range. Their attempt was unsuccessful and the first half came to an end.
Heading into the locker room, the Vikings led 10-3.
The second half was a slop fest as neither team did much. However, the Bears began the third quarter with the ball and took 3:28 off the clock on a five-play drive that yielded only nine yards. After Chicago punted the ball away, the Vikings put the proverbial nail in the coffin. They marched 77 yards on 12 plays in 5:44 and expanded their lead to 17-3. This time, Cousins tossed a seven-yard touchdown to Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
After that Vikings touchdown, the game was a slew of incompetent offense from both sides. This is how the third quarter came to a close:
- Bears Punt: 3 plays, 1 yard, 1:49
- Vikings Punt: 3 plays, 9 yards, 1:37
- Bears Turnover on Downs: 4 plays, 7 yards, 1:31
- Vikings Punt: 3 plays, 1 yard, 1:12
With Pro Bowl returner Jakeem Grant sidelined due to a concussion, it was only fitting that Damiere Byrd muffed a punt to give the ball back to Minnesota.
To keep this short and sweet, the fourth quarter was much like the third quarter. Neither team was able to muster up much on offense. Following the fumbled punt, the Vikings had the ball. However, they went lost four yards on three plays, resulting in a punt back to the Bears.
At this point, Chicago traveled 81 yards on 11 plays in 3:51, representing their best chance to narrow the gap. However, the Vikings' defense stopped the Bears inside the 10-yard line when Chicago was unable to convert on fourth down. The rest of the game played out as follows:
- Vikings Punt: 3 plays, 1 yard, 2:20
- Bears Turnover on Downs: 8 plays, 42 yards, 1:55
Thus, the Bears wasted another red-zone opportunity.
- Vikings Punt: 6 plays, 24 yards, 2:23
Finally, the Bears got their first touchdown of the game. Of course, it was too little too late as it came in garbage time. Chicago's drive spanned 80 yards on nine plays. On the final play of the game, Justin Fields connected with Jesper Horsted for a 19-yard touchdown. The Bears didn't even bother with the extra point.
Since then, the Bears have won two in a row against the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants. On the other hand, the Vikings have lost two straight to the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers. As a result, their playoff dreams are over too. Neither team reaching the postseason means that both Mike Zimmer and Matt Nagy are in line to lose their jobs.