First-place Bears top Vikings with 3 Cody Parkey FGs, stout defense
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Maybe it happened when the maligned Cody Parkey made his first field goal attempt to cap the Bears’ first drive. Or when Khalil Mack forced a fumble at the Bears’ 14 yard line to keep a shutout going. Or, even, when Mitch Trubisky named 30 states in 15 seconds on a pre-taped scoreboard game to absolutely destroy the poor little kid he facing.
What was clear early Sunday night is also the most promising takeaway from the Bears’ 25-20 win against the Vikings: in their biggest game in five years, the Bears didn’t shrink in the moment.
Mack wrecked the Vikings’ best plans and obliterated their worst ones. Trubisky threw two interceptions — but also an 18-yard touchdown to Anthony Miller that resulted in a row-row-row-your-boat celebration — and used his legs to extend drives.
And then, with 8:30 to play and the Bears ahead by eight safety Eddie Jackson picked off Kirk Cousins and returned the ball down the left sideline for a 27-yard touchdown. The Bears threw a two-point conversion to tight end Adam Shaheen to go up 16. When the Vikings pulled back within eight, Parkey made a 48-yarder to go up 11 with 2:48 to go.
The Bears put on a show in front of a national audience. How the Bears got there — with poise — should make fans dream of not only making the playoffs, but making noise in them.
The first-place Bears are 7-3. The Vikings, the closest team to them in the NFC North standings, are 5-4-1.
Thursday’s game in Detroit will be the final contest of the Bears’ decisive three-game divisional stretch.
Before Sunday’s game, television cameras captured Cousins telling his teammates that the Bears “are not the reason” that NBC moved the game to prime time, the Vikings were.
If he believed those words at all, he couldn’t possibly think the same after the game.
The contest started with the shaking of a slump. Parkey, who spent two nights practicing field goals inside an empty Soldier Field this week after he’d hit the upright four times against the Lions, made his first attempt, a 33-yarder. It capped the Bears’ first drive, which lasted 12 plays and took up almost seven minutes.
The Vikings threatened to take the lead when they converted two third downs to give them first-and-10 at the Bears’ 14. Dalvin Cook took a handoff over left tackle and was devoured by Mack, who stripped the ball with one hand and then reached to recover it.
Trubisky gave the Vikings the ball back, though, when he threw a pass deep to Taylor Gabriel that was picked by the Vikings’ Anthony Harris.
The Bears forced their second three-and-out of the night, though, and started with the ball at their own 18. They marched down the field with ease — they only got to third down once in 13 plays — and scored on Trubisky’s pass to Miller.
Rather than bring Parkey out to kick the extra point, though, coach Matt Nagy went for two. Josh Bellamy, who entered the game with four catches since the end of September, caught the conversion, and the Bears took an 11-0 lead.
Cousins threw three-straight incompletions for the Vikings’ third three-and-out in four series. Steadily, the Bears crept toward Vikings territory — their only play longer than six yards was an unsportsmanlike penalty on Eric Wilson — before Parkey made a 41-yard field goal to take a two-touchdown lead into the locker room.
Harris plucked his second pass out of the air on third down with about three minutes left in the third quarter, returning it from the Vikings’ 36 to the Bears’ 31.
The Vikings could only muster a 36-yard Dan Bailey field goal, even after Cousins threw a five-yard pass to receiver Adam Thielen to convert on third-and-1.
Bailey made a 36-yarder with about 12 minutes to play in the game to pull within eight. That capitalized on another Bears mistake — running back Tarik Cohen fumbled on a run up the middle, losing the ball to Vikings safety Harrison Smith.
The Vikings would get the ball back, down eight, before Jackson’s pick-six sent Soldier Field into a frenzy.
Down 16 with about five minutes to play, Cousins found Aldrick Robinson on third down for a 13-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion fell incomplete, but a roughing the passer penalty on Akiem Hicks gave the Vikings new life. Cousins found Thielen for a 1-yard score to pull within eight.