NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 18 Game Recap: Minnesota Vikings 31, Chicago Bears 17

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and tight end Tyler Conklin (83) react after a touchdown pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) to Jefferson against the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings outlasted the Chicago Bears 31-17 in Week 18 to collect their eighth win of the season and secure second place in the NFC North. Despite the victory, Sunday likely represented the final game of Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer’s tenure with the team. It’s a similar story for Bears head coach Matt Nagy, who is expected to be fired following Chicago’s 6-11 finish this season.

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Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback

Kirk Cousins’ extraordinary efficiency powered Minnesota to one of their strongest offensive performances of the season, as the 10-year pro needed just 14 completions to amass 250 yards through the air and three touchdowns. Despite attempting just 22 passes, Cousins torched Chicago’s secondary — his five big time throws were the third-highest total of his career, and his 142.4 quarterback rating was his highest figure in a Vikings uniform. Cousins was unsurprisingly brilliant in play-action, accruing three big-time throws on his six completions for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

Kirk Cousins
Target Depth Comps./Atts. Yds. Adj. Comp. % TDs
Behind L.O.S 2/3 6 100% 0
Short (1-9) 5/6 24 83.3% 0
Medium (10-19) 1/3 19 66.7% 0
Long (20+) 6/7 201 85.7% 3
Running Backs

Dalvin Cook handled lead-back duties for Minnesota, turning his 15 touches into 82 total yards. The majority of Cook’s success came before contact, as the former Pro Bowler averaged an impressive 3.9 yards before contact, but just 1.9 after contact.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Justin Jefferson finished just 16 yards short of the Vikings single-season receiving yards record. He caught five of his team-high seven targets for 107 yards and a touchdown. The second-year wide out was Cousins' most trusted target when the stakes were highest, as he caught each of his three third-down targets for 78 yards and a touchdown.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette hauled in each of his three targets for a season-high 103 yards and a touchdown, with the score representing the first touchdown reception of Smith-Marsette’s young career. The rookie was Minnesota’s primary downfield threat, as his 26.5 yard average depth of target and three explosive plays led all Vikings pass-catchers.

Offensive Line

Minnesota’s offensive line was mediocre in its final showing of the season, allowing 19 pressures and three sacks in pass protection while powering a Vikings rushing attack that averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Starting right guard Oli Udoh performed admirably in pass protection, conceding a unit-low one pressure.

Defensive Line

Edge defender Kenny Willekes ended the season on a high note, racking up a team-high eight pressures and two sacks in the win. He led a Vikings defensive line that manhandled Chicago in both the run and pass game, accruing 24 unit-wide pressures and six sacks while holding Bears rushers to an average of just 1 yard before contact.

Player Pass Rushing Snaps Total Pressures Sacks
Armon Watts 46 2 0
D.J. Wonnum 42 6 2
Sheldon Richardson 34 2 0
Kenny Willekes 30 8 2
Dalvin Tomlinson 29 3 2
Linebackers

Anthony Barr wrapped up his eighth season with another exceptional performance, leading all defenders with 11 tackles, including his second sack of the season. He paced a Minnesota linebacker unit that was picked apart in coverage, as they surrendered receptions on 14 of their 16 unit-wide targets for 159 yards and a touchdown.

Secondary

The Vikings secondary thrived against the Bears' meek passing attack, conceding just 157 yards on 17 unit-wide receptions. Cornerback Cameron Dantzler was outstanding in coverage, drawing a team-high 11 targets yet allowing just six receptions for 38 yards.

Player Coverage snaps Receptions allowed/Targets Yards allowed Passer rating allowed
Xavier Woods 56 0/0 0 0.0
Patrick Peterson 56 4/6 44 48.6
Cameron Dantzler 55 6/11 38 61.9
Harrison Smith 47 2/3 22 88.2

Chicago Bears

Quarterback

Andy Dalton struggled to give Chicago a realistic shot at victory, as he completed 33 of his 48 attempts for 325 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The 11-year pro was unable to overcome the seemingly constant pressure he faced. Dalton completed just four of 12 attempts for 30 yards while throwing two interceptions to finish with a passer rating of 2.8 while under pressure. The majority of Dalton’s limited success came in the screen game, as he completed each of his seven such attempts, finishing Sunday’s contest with an average of 5.6 yards per attempt.

Andy Dalton | Week 18
Target Depth Comps./Atts. Yds. Adj. Comp. % TDs
Behind L.O.S 10/11 56 90.9% 0
Short (1-9) 14/17 120 82.3% 0
Medium (10-19) 9/14 149 64.3% 1
Long (20+) 0/3 0 0% 0
Running Backs

David Montgomery was dynamic in his final showing of the season, converting his 22 touches into 79 total yards. The third-year pro was impressively difficult to bring down, leading all Chicago ball-carriers in first downs (4) and forced missed tackles (2) while racking up 51 yards after contact.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Darnell Mooney solidified his status as Chicago’s WR1 heading into next season with an exceptional performance Sunday, reeling in 12 of his game-high 16 targets for 126 yards through the air. The second-year wide receiver was electric with the ball in his hands, accruing 89 yards after the catch and seven first downs while forcing the only missed tackle among Bears wide receivers.

Cole Kmet’s 48 yards receiving were second-most among Chicago pass-catchers, as the second-year tight end hauled in four of five targets in the defeat. Kmet was especially effective down the field — his average of 12 yards per reception led all Bears pass-catchers.

Offensive Line

Chicago’s offensive line was up and down in their performance, allowing 30 pressures and seven sacks in pass protection while facilitating a Bears rushing attack that averaged 3.6 yards per carry. Starting center Sam Mustipher was the units strongest performing member in pass protection, allowing a unit-low one pressure and zero sacks.

Defensive Line

The Bears defensive line achieved consistent pressure against the pass, accruing 17 unit-wide pressures and four sacks. Interior defender Bilal Nichols paced the group with five pressures and one sack. The unit found less success against the run, as Vikings rushers averaged 2.9 yards before contact.

Player Pass Rushing Snaps Total Pressures Sacks
Robert Quinn 19 2 1
Bilal Nichols 18 5 1
Trevis Gipson 14 2 1
Angelo Blackson 13 3 1
Linebackers

Roquan Smith wrapped up another impressive season with a dominant performance Sunday, leading all Chicago defenders with six tackles in the defeat. He captained a Bears linebackers corps that held up well in coverage, as they surrendered just 7 yards on three unit-wide receptions.

Secondary

It was the story of two halves for Chicago’s secondary, as they effectively eliminated Minnesota’s aerial attack in the first half before conceding 168 unit-wide passing yards and three touchdowns in the second. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson capped off his stellar sophomore campaign with another impressive performance, drawing a team-high five targets yet conceding just two receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown.

Player Coverage snaps Receptions allowed/Targets Yards allowed Passer rating allowed
Jaylon Johnson 27 2/5 61 125.8
Eddie Jackson 23 2/2 71 158.3
Tashaun Gipson Sr. 22 2/3 34 104.9
Artie Burns 21 1/2 7 58.3
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