Bears beat Vikings 33-27 to stay in stride in playoff race
Published 8:25 pm Sunday, December 20, 2020
MINNEAPOLIS — David Montgomery burst through a big hole in the defense and carried most of Minnesota’s secondary with him across the goal line. That 14-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, his second score of the game, put Chicago ahead again by double digits.
Every time the Vikings made a push, this once-flailing Bears offense had an answer.
Montgomery rushed 32 times for a career-high 146 yards as Chicago trampled Minnesota’s depleted defense and hung on for a 33-27 victory on Sunday to stay in the hunt for the expanded playoffs.
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“It’s been fun, man, being able to go out there and just let it loose,” said Montgomery, the second-year runner and catalyst for a revived group that has averaged 33 points over the last three games.
“He’s really, really hard to bring down with one guy. He runs with just extreme passion. The guys love that, and we’re feeding off of him,” coach Matt Nagy said.
The Bears (7-7), who entered the afternoon one game behind Arizona for the new third wild-card spot in the NFC, never trailed in winning at Minnesota for a third straight year.
“There’s really good camaraderie right now, just an intensity and a focus that I like to see, and we’re in a good spot. We’ve just got to keep it going,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said.
Nagy improved to 5-1 against the Vikings (6-8), whose postseason chances all but vanished.
“The last time we played them they didn’t score a touchdown on us defensively,” coach Mike Zimmer said, “and this week we couldn’t slow them down.”
Chicago punted only once, on the opening possession. The only setback after that? Cameron Dantzler intercepted Trubisky’s third-and-goal pass into a crowd in the end zone with 2:57 left and a 30-27 lead, finally giving the Vikings the break they needed.
But the Bears, who were plenty vulnerable on defense themselves, delivered their second fourth-and-1 stop in Minnesota territory to get the ball right back for a field goal.
Dalvin Cook rushed for 132 yards and a score, but he was stuffed on third-and-1. The Vikings called a bootleg on the next play, but the Bears swarmed the edge and forced Kirk Cousins to scramble and throw errantly off his back foot. Cairo Santos, who converted all four of his kicks, stretched his streak to 22 straight field goals made.
The Bears then intercepted a last-snap heave by Cousins into the end zone. The Vikings, who finished 3-5 at home this year, had four goal-to-go situations that yielded only two touchdowns.
“There are so many things that you point to that you can go back and agonize over,” said Cousins, who went 24 for 35 for 271 yards and two scores.
Justin Jefferson had eight receptions for 104 yards and set the single-season franchise rookie record held by Randy Moss with 73 catches and counting. Cousins connected with tight end Tyler Conklin for his first career touchdown catch, a 20-yard score off a play-action rollout that pulled the Vikings within three points with 8:05 remaining.
But the combination of steady pressure and conservative decisions left the Vikings lacking the quick strikes to catch up on a day when their defense was far from complementary.
The Vikings played without star linebacker Eric Kendricks for the third straight game, applying little pressure on Trubisky and missing Montgomery often on their first-attempt tackles.
When the Vikings beat them 19-13 five weeks ago in Chicago, the Bears managed two first-half field goals and needed a kickoff return touchdown by Cordarrelle Patterson to stay competitive. That was offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s first turn as the play caller, after Nagy relinquished the responsibility in search of a spark.
But despite losing twice more to stretch their streak to six straight defeats, the offense found a higher gear. Trubisky settled back in at quarterback following the injury to Nick Foles. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. was the only offensive lineman in the same place as in the previous meeting, when Montgomery was out with a concussion.
Now Nagy and Lazor have helped Trubisky get back in a groove with the run-pass options and rollouts to complement Montgomery’s work on the ground.
“We were a little unsure about what we wanted to do, who we wanted to be,” said Trubisky, who went 15 for 21 for 202 yards and a touchdown. “We have more of an identity right now.”
After missing three extra points and four field goals over the previous two games and nearly losing his job, Dan Bailey was perfect for the Vikings on three extra points and two field goals.
Bears: Patterson (knee) was hurt in the first half but returned after taking one kickoff return off.
Vikings: LB Troy Dye departed in the third quarter for concussion evaluation.
Bears: play at Jacksonville next Sunday.
Vikings: play at New Orleans on Friday.