By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings got their first win of the season against a division rival in 2014. It only took the entire season to do it. In the last week of the season, the Vikings defeated the Chicago Bears, 13-9, at TCF Bank Stadium.READ MORE: Vaccine Doubts Fuel Dr. Scott Jensen's Rise In Minnesota Governor Race
Teddy Bridgewater found Adam Thielen wide open for a 44-yard touchdown pass to put the Vikings ahead for good with 10 minutes and 53 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Both teams traded field goals the rest of the way.
Offense Grade: C+
The Vikings offense was good at times, but they only put up 13 points against a bad defense. It is surprising that the Bears even cared. Both teams looked to have checked out. The Vikings managed 311 yards on 61 plays. They ran for 121, but threw for just 190.
Matt Asiata had one of his most impressive games, despite having just 91 yards and no touchdowns. He showed the ability to make a defender miss. If he can continue doing it on a consistent basis, he can become more than just a short-yardage back.
Thielen may have had his coming out game with three catches for 68 and a touchdown. The first-year wide receiver spent last season on the Vikings practice squad. He had a punt block return touchdown earlier in the season, but Sunday’s catch was his first receiving score of his career.
Another player on the offensive side of the ball that had a good end to the season was Matt Kalil. The third-year left tackle has not had a good season, but has played better in recent weeks. He said after the game that he got his issues figured out and that he will be better next season. He was very good against former teammate Jared Allen on Sunday.
Defense Grade: C+
The Vikings defense held the Bears out of the end zone and allowed just 165 yards through the air and 99 yards on the ground. The Bears also converted just four-of-15 third down opportunities, but got first downs on two-of-three fourth down tries.
As a unit, the Vikings had two sacks, four tackles for a loss and seven hits on Jay Cutler. Former Bear Corey Wootton had one sack while Gerald Hodges and Linval Joseph combined for the other. Audie Cole and Xavier Rhodes had very good games. Cole recorded a game-high 14 tackles, one for a loss and one pass defensed. Rhodes had just two tackles and one pass defensed, but the second-year cornerback was tasked with stopping Alshon Jeffery. He limited the Bears’ best offensive player to two catches for 34 yards.READ MORE: 'Perfect Timing To Go': MEA Marking One Of The Busiest Travel Weekends Of The Fall
Quarterback Grade: B+
Bridgewater was very good again, but not perfect. He completed 17-of-25 passes for 209 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was also sacked three times and posted a rating of 90.2.
He made a few very good throws, including a couple to Greg Jennings in coverage. Jennings also saved him with a tremendous one-handed catch on a third-down throw that was heading over his head.
Bridgewater moved in the pocket well, but did hold the ball too long on at least one of the three sacks. He showed good mobility and the ability to get yards with his feet. He ran the ball six times for 18 yards.
Special Teams Grade: C-
Blair Walsh had a bounce back game with two field goals and an extra point without a miss. He also had one really good kickoff that was downed inside the 15-yard line.
Thielen, a native of Detroit Lakes, Minn., was really good on special teams again with two tackles, including the one that limited the Bears kickoff returner Marc Mariani to 11 yards. He also ran down Mariani on a 67-yard kickoff return that saved a touchdown in the early portions of the fourth quarter.
The 67-yard return came right after Walsh made a 44-yard field goal to put the Vikings up by a touchdown with 11 minutes and 29 seconds remaining in the game. It could have been a disastrous momentum shift in the game, but the Vikings defense held the Bears to a field goal.
Another unheralded Minnesota native out of high school, Marcus Sherels, had a very good game as well. The Rochester native and former University of Minnesota star had one punt return for 31 yards. He got the offense very good field position to set up a field goal to give the Vikings a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
For more Vikings news and updates, visit Vikings Central.MORE NEWS: A Ride-Along With Minneapolis Police Shows How Staffing Shortages Have Officers Stretched Thin
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.