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Bears keep Vikings out of postseason with win, will face Eagles in playoffs

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky throws a pass during the first half Sunday. | Jim Mone/AP photo

MINNEAPOLIS — Coach Matt Nagy had just done precisely what the Bears had vowed to do — play to win Sunday, despite the fact it likely would have no effect on their playoff seed — when he was asked if he gave it much thought during the game.

Was he watching the score of the Rams’ game? Whom did he want to play in the playoffs? Did it affect his thought process?

His six-word answer said everything.

‘‘For me, I just love winning,’’ Nagy said.

He has had a lot of practice. The Bears’ 24-10 victory against the Vikings kept their NFC North rivals out of the playoffs, and Nagy cemented a 12-4 record in his first season. It is the Bears’ best regular-season mark since a 13-3 record in 2006.

The result set up the Bears’ first home playoff game since 2010. They will play at 3:40 p.m. Sunday against the defending

Super Bowl champion Eagles, who beat the Redskins 24-0 to sneak into the postseason.

The Vikings played so poorly that the Bears might have been better off letting them rally so they could play them again in a rematch at Soldier Field.

Nagy didn’t let the wild-card round of the playoffs dictate how he called the game, though. The Bears were smothering on defense and grinded out yards on offense.

‘‘I think it’s fun to win,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘And so when you win, whoever it is, who cares? Let’s just play ball.’’

The Bears could have improved on their No. 3 seed only if the Rams had lost to the 49ers. He was given a score by Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews as he ran to the locker room for halftime — the Rams were up by 18 and soon would kick another field goal — but he didn’t mention any changes he might make to his players.

It wasn’t until the Bears led by 11 midway through the fourth quarter that he took out defensive end Akiem Hicks and outside linebacker Khalil Mack. He then lifted running back Jordan Howard, who finished with 109 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, and left tackle Charles Leno Jr.

Count Sunday among the things Nagy has handled masterfully in his first season as a head coach.

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The Bears were aware of the injury risk inherent in playing their starters for every relevant snap and came away with some damage. Receiver Anthony Miller appeared to dislocate his left shoulder again, and fellow receiver Taylor Gabriel hurt his ribs.

Otherwise, the Bears emerged victorious — and on a roll.

‘‘I believe in him,’’ Hicks said of Nagy. ‘‘He has done us right so far, going through [organized team activities], training camp and now in the regular season. If he feels like it’s time for us to play, we’re going to go out there and play ball.’’

Cornerback Prince Amukamara recalled when Nagy was the target of criticism for resting his starters in a preseason game against the Chiefs.

‘‘He doesn’t let anyone control what he thinks, and he’s going to do what he wants to do for the team,’’ Amukamara said. ‘‘I hope he’s Coach of the Year.’’

Nagy has to feel as confident in his defense as he has all season.

The Bears’ defenders smothered Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins — he of the $84 million guaranteed contract — from the get-go. In forcing four consecutive three-and-outs to start the game, the Bears allowed two net yards.

Howard ran for 42 yards on the Bears’ second play from scrimmage and capped that drive with a six-yard touchdown run. He scored the Bears’ second touchdown, too, on a one-yard plunge after Gabriel was ruled down short of the end zone on a 41-yard catch. But Cody Parkey missed the extra point, and the Bears took a 13-3 lead into halftime.

On their first possession of the third quarter, the Vikings converted first downs on a roughing-the-passer penalty against Mack and on a pass-interference penalty against Amukamara. Cousins eventually found receiver Stefon Diggs for a two-yard touchdown to pull the Vikings to 13-10.

The Bears got the ball back and launched a 16-play, 75-yard drive that buried the Vikings. They converted four third downs, three on passes by Mitch Trubisky. By the time Tarik Cohen ran in for a three-yard touchdown, the Bears had bled 9:05 off the clock.

Even if it didn’t change the Bears’ seed, the victory had meaning.

‘‘We’ve been the stepchild, the team that’s been getting beat on for so long,’’ Amukamara said. ‘‘I think it’s time for us to start our own streak and end some streaks. . . .

‘‘Just to change that and to change the whole narrative and to really put the whole league on notice, like: ‘Hey, this is our first year together, first-year head coach. We’re trying to be a force for the future.’ ’’