Vikings get to 13-3 for playoff bye by beating Bears 23-10
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings and their dominant defense can finally rest.
They’ve made a convincing case they’re a strong contender for the Super Bowl that happens to be on their home turf.
Latavius Murray rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns , and the Vikings held Chicago to 86 total yards through three quarters on their way to wrapping up a first-round bye for the playoffs with a 23-10 victory over the Bears on Sunday.
“We wanted to finish this season off right,” Murray said.
Stefon Diggs caught six passes for 65 yards and a touchdown from Case Keenum for the Vikings (13-3), who reached 13 wins for only the second time in the history of the 57-year-old franchise after holding a second straight opponent without an offensive touchdown.
“You respect everybody who played the game and came before us,” Diggs said, “but all those wins that we’ve had in the past, even today, they don’t matter anymore because it all could end.”
As long as this defense that entered the final regular-season game with the fewest points and yards allowed in the NFL this season is intact, the Vikings will be all the more likely to stick around.
“We’ve got a lot of good players. They understand the system and what their responsibility is, and they play very, very hard,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “They’ve got this little edge about them right now, that they don’t want to give an inch.”
Mitchell Trubisky finished his rookie season with a turnover-free game, completing 20 of 36 passes for 178 yards. He failed, however, to guide the Bears (5-11) across the goal line despite 11 plays from the 10-yard line or closer in the fourth quarter.
“I just got more comfortable as the weeks went on,” Trubisky said. “Just to play my game, be a leader on this team and help the offense grow and get better, but we’ve got to find a way to have a chance to win at the end of games.”
Trubisky also took a safety in the second quarter on an intentional grounding call when Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph closed in on a sack in the end zone and he side-armed a throw between the two pass rushers.
“He just tossed it as if he was scared or something,” Hunter said.
Well, could you blame him?
“Nah!” Hunter said.
Keenum said 13-3 had “a nice ring to it.” The Vikings finished 12-2 four times with a 14-game schedule (in 1969, 1970, 1973 and 1975), but the only other time they’ve topped 12 victories was their 15-1 record in 1998.
“This place is crazy hard for teams to come in and play, especially with our defense. So I’m excited. I think this place is going to be rocking,” Keenum said.
In what could have been the final game for coach John Fox, who’s 14-34 in three seasons, the Bears didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter and totaled only 30 yards rushing. They were penalized 10 times for 116 yards and went 1 for 14 on third and fourth down conversions.
Fox refused to address his status, leaving the podium in less than two minutes after a terse postgame news conference. The Bears are 1-5 against each of their three NFC North foes under Fox.
“I would love to have him back,” wide receiver Josh Bellamy said. “I don’t feel like we’d get another coach that would be better.”
SNEAKY SPECIAL TEAMS
The Bears stopped a streak of 90 minutes and 32 seconds by the Vikings without allowing a score, when Bryce Callahan returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown with 5:50 left in the second quarter.
Callahan knelt near the sideline while Tarik Cohen lined up on the opposite side as the expected returner, before sprinting for a sliding catch of the kick that hung over the middle of the field. He leaped to his feet and veered left past the confused Vikings and untouched for the score.
The Bears pulled a pair of fast ones on the Vikings in their matchup earlier this season, when Benny Cunningham caught a pass from Pat O’Donnell on a fake punt for a 38-yard touchdown and Trubisky scored on a 2-point conversion play when the ball changed hands four times.
VIKINGS RECORD BOOK LOOK
Diggs became the fastest player in Vikings history to reach 200 receptions, in 40 games. ... Adam Thielen had six catches for 61 yards and finished with 91 receptions for 1,276 yards for the season, finishing seventh and ninth in team history. Randy Moss and Cris Carter are the only ones ahead on either list. ... Over the past two years, only Ezekiel Elliott (22 for Dallas) has more rushing touchdowns in the NFL than Murray (20, including 12 for Oakland last season).
Joe Berger, who switched from right guard to center with Pat Elflein shelved for a shoulder injury for the second time in four weeks, was the only original starter on the Vikings offensive line to play in all 16 games. Mike Remmers moved from right tackle into Berger’s spot. Jeremiah Sirles started at left guard for Nick Easton, who will miss the playoffs because of a broken ankle.
Bears: Two starting offensive linemen, LT Bobby Massie (knee) and RG Josh Sitton (ankle), did not play.
Vikings: FB C.J. Ham hurt his neck and was ruled out early in the third quarter. TE Kyle Rudolph, bothered by an ankle injury the past three weeks, wore a walking boot in the locker room after the game.
The Vikings have a bye for only the fourth time since the current playoff format began in 1990. They’ll host one of the wild-card round winners on Jan. 13 or 14.