Skip to main content

EAGAN — Whenever somebody is new in town, it’s interesting to watch their reactions to all of the madness that Minnesota sports has offered its fans over the years.

Hey, Kevin O’Connell, ya ever hear of Chad Hutchinson? How about the protester who dangled from the roof? You don’t happen to know Norv Turner, do you? You wouldn’t play Sam Bradford if his leg didn’t work, would you? Kev, I’m sure you saw that argument between Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen on the sidelines, yeah?

That’s just scratching the surface of the bizarre nature of the Vikings’ rivalry with the Chicago Bears. There was the time that the Soldier Field clocks stopped working. Kyle Orton once scored 48 points against the Vikings. Chase Daniel beat the Vikings and then Stefon Diggs skipped practice the following week and declared truth to all rumors. The Vikings lost in OT to the Bears in ‘09 partly because of a missed extra point, which cost them home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

How much time does everyone have because there’s more. As part of Minnesota’s 2003 collapse they fell to the Bears 13-10 in a game where Rex Grossman went 13-for-30 passing. Mitchell Trubisky knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs in 2020. In 2010 the Bears knocked out Brett Favre in a game that was played at TCF Bank Stadium following the Metrodome roof collapse. That was Favre’s final NFL appearance.

That only covered some of the 2000s. In 1985 an injured Jim McMahon talked his way back onto the field and threw a 70-yard touchdown, leading Chicago to victory. It was called “The Viking Miracle Game.”

Not that it’s all been bad. Case Keenum’s comeback against Chicago in 2017 sparked a run of eight wins in a row. In December 2015 Teddy Bridgewater played the best game of his career throwing four TDs in a win that helped them take the NFC North. In 2007 Adrian Peterson went for 224 yards and three touchdowns. Gus Frerotte threw a 99-yard touchdown. Heck, the expansion Vikings shocked the Bears when they met for the first time in 1961.

The Vikings’ overall record against Chicago is 63–57–2, which is just too perfect.

This year the two clubs enter the game in different spots, as they often have during their long histories. The Vikings are looking to return to the playoffs with a new regime and have gotten off to the best start they could have hoped for record wise.

Chicago is one of 13 teams sitting at 2-2 but nothing about them suggests they are a .500 type squad. The Bears are 31st in scoring and 32nd in passing yards. They won a mud-bowl game against the 49ers to open the season and defeated the lowly Texans. Against two reasonable opponents — Green Bay and the New York Giants — the Bears totaled 22 points.

But the relative strength of the Bears and Vikings’ rosters has not always determined the outcome. In 2004 the Vikings were 7.0 point favorites against the Bears and Chad Hutchinson dropped three touchdowns on them for one of his three career wins. The Vikings have been favored by at least a touchdown eight times since 2000 vs. Chicago and only covered twice.

This time the Bears are in rough shape. They will likely be without running back David Montgomery and top cornerback Jaylon Johnson — the two players who drive the only strengths of their roster. Chicago has the fourth best yards per carry mark in the NFL and has allowed the fourth fewest passing yards. Of course, that number is helped along by playing in a rainstorm and seeing Davis Mills and Daniel Jones in two other games. The Packers put up over 400 yards of offense versus the Bears.

“I think the one thing is they play so hard, they fly around…. Attention-to-detail, unbelievable amount of effort, you can tell they love playing with one another, they’ve had kind of some emotional victories here and team-building-type wins like we kind of have as well,” O’Connell said of the Bears.

The things that have worked for Chicago are the things that have gone against the Vikings. The Minnesota defense hasn’t gone as expected, ranking 23rd in yards allowed heading into Sunday’s game. And the passing attack has been surprisingly shaky, ranking 21st in net yards per attempt. That’s not to mention that the Vikings are 22nd in rushing yards.

Chicago can’t really score against them though, right? Justin Fields is barely above 50% passing and ranks as PFF’s second lowest quarterback. That could depend on whether the Vikings can improve their pressure rate. Last week against the Saints they only bothered Andy Dalton on six of 30 dropbacks and Fields has an 84.5 rating when clean and 27.4 rating when pressured.

The Bears’ offensive line is doing Fields no favors. While he holds the ball too long in the pocket, they have the sixth worst PFF pass blocking grade as a team, which could open up Danielle Hunter to getting back on track.

There’s also the simple fact that the Bears did not do anything this offseason to improve their team and it shows. They don’t have receivers who can beat man coverage or pass rushers who can get after the QB and didn’t work too hard to find any folks who could do those jobs. Chicago wants to sputter around, draft high, clear up their salary cap and then aim to compete for the division in a few years.

The Vikings kept their fingers in the leaky holes by keeping Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks and Kirk Cousins and added veterans to plug the other troublesome spots like cornerback and linebacker. Through four games, the jury is very much out on how that decision will play long term.

Sunday is a big swing game toward the Vikings being justified for taking a swing at the NFC North crown. If they beat the Bears at US Bank Stadium, they’ll go to 4-1 with a trip to Miami on the way and then the bye week and a home matchup with struggling Arizona and a road game at Washington. There are some tough games in the future like home vs. Dallas and at Buffalo but it’s much easier to race from the front and come back a little to the pack than spend the whole time chasing.

If the Vikings have something weird happen and lose to Chicago, all of their weaknesses will be magnified and it will be harder to look at the soft upcoming schedule as a bunch of tomato cans standing there for the Vikings to knock down. Instead it will be back to Any Given Sunday mode where they can win, lose or draw and nobody has a clue which version of the club is showing up that day.

Oddsmakers don’t give that outcome much of a chance. Sunday’s contest is tied for the seventh highest (Vikings favored by 7.0) mark since 2000. In the two other games where they were given a 7.0 point edge, the Vikings won 13-9 and lost 24-14 and both games were bizarre.

The element of the team returning from London and electing not to have their bye week does have a haunting flavor to it. Still, no matter the history, O’Connell should be welcomed to the Vikings-Bears rivalry with a win. Be prepared though, sir, because even the victories come in strange fashion when these teams get together. 

Related - Vikings Week 5 injury report: Latest on Za'Darius Smith, Andrew Booth Jr.

Related - Where we rate the Vikings in our Week 5 power rankings