MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The march to the post season for the Vikings and their dedicated fans went through the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Confidence was clearly high from purple and gold faithful, but concern was not far behind.
“Vikings are gonna win 41-17, we’re gonna clinch the playoffs,” one fan quick predicted.
“I’m nervous. I have a lot of nerves going into the game but I’m confident we can pull it off,” said another as they walked through the cold, downtown air.
Their feelings were understandable. Bears head coach Matt Nagy said he might bench some of the team’s starters during the game, depending on the score of the Rams-49ers game. If the Rams lost, a Bears win meant Chicago would get a bye week in the playoffs. Plus, it was a home game for the Vikings.
Inside Bus Stop Burgers Brewhouse, just a short walk from the stadium, cold beverages and hot dishes helped calm nerves — but not for very long, as the Vikings fell behind.
Fans barely even cheered when the team finally kicked a field goal for their first points of the game.
But the Vikings gave them a reason to get excited in the second half when a Stefon Diggs touchdown sent Erik the Red customers into a frenzy.
“We always get high hopes and we always have to climb that mountain,” said fan Ben Urness. “It’s always a mountain, it’s never not a mountain.”
The brief moment of jubilation proved to be too little, too late. The Bears continued to tack on more points while the Vikings offense remained stagnant.
With several minutes still left in the game, the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium began hurrying past the exits. The disappointment wasn’t just because of a lost game, but what felt like a lost season.
“Defense could not hold them, offense was totally off,” said one fan.
“A complete and utter embarrassment,” described fan Austin Parent.
And the blame was spread around.
“I’m honestly very frustrated by Kirk Cousins and the entire offense,” Parent said.
“The coaching staff, that’s what went wrong in my opinion,” added Frank Kittleson.
“It takes a whole team to win the whole team didn’t show up,” said Jerry Doffing.
It’s a steep fall from the 2017 season, when the Vikings went 13-3, won the NFC North Division, and made it to the NFC Championship, courtesy of the legendary “Minnesota Miracle” against the New Orleans Saints.
Now fans aren’t going to watch relevant Vikings football games until September 2019 — instead of in January as hoped. If there was one similarity between the two most recent seasons, it’s that they both ended in heartbreak for fans.
“I hope we keep (Coach Mike) Zimmer but I don’t know. We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” said Parent.
The Monday following the regular season finale is often referred to as “Black Monday,” since many head coaches are fired.