CHICAGO (AP) — Kirk Cousins threw two touchdown passes, and the Minnesota Vikings beat the struggling and short-handed Chicago Bears 17-9 on Monday night.
The Vikings (7-7), part of a tight pack of teams vying for one of the NFC’s seven playoff spots, were in line for their most lopsided win before Justin Fields threw a touchdown pass to Jesper Horsted on the game’s final play.
The final play aside, Minnesota withstood several scoring threats by Chicago down the stretch coming off a tight win over Pittsburgh in which they nearly blew a 29-0 lead.
Given the state of the Bears (4-10), the result was hardly a surprise. Chicago lost for the eighth time in nine games, and with 14 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, that seemed inevitable. Receiver Allen Robinson was on it, as was the starting secondary.
The health issues also hit the coaching staff, with all three coordinators testing positive for the coronavirus during the week. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai was cleared to return hours before kickoff. The Bears had no update on offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and special teams coordinator Chris Tabor.
Cousins, who struggled last week, didn’t exactly dominate in this one. He was 12 of 24 for 87 yards with an interception and got sacked four times. The two-time Pro Bowler also connected with Justin Jefferson for a 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter and threw a 7-yarder to Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the third.
Dalvin Cook ran for 89 yards, after going for 205 against Pittsburgh in a sooner-than-expected return from a dislocated shoulder.
D.J. Wonnum had three sacks and the Vikings recovered three fumbles on the way to their second straight win after back-to-back losses.
Fields threw for 285 yards and ran for 35 in his second game back after missing two with broken ribs. The rookie completed 26 of 39 passes playing behind a line missing both starting tackles, with right tackle Larry Borom on the COVID list and left tackle Jason Peters out with an ankle injury.
Robert Quinn and Akiem Hicks each had two sacks. Quinn has 16 this year, leaving him just shy of Hall of Famer Richard Dent’s franchise record of 17 1/2 in 1984.
But it was another frustrating night for Chicago. Fans again booed at times and made their feelings about coach Matt Nagy known, chanting “Fire Nagy!”
The Vikings made it look easy in grabbing a 7-0 lead. Cousins hit Jefferson in the left corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown with just over five minutes left in the first quarter.
Fields was then stripped by Cameron Dantzler on a keeper near midfield. Anthony Barr recovered, leading to a field goal for the Vikings’ Greg Joseph early in the second after some drama for the Bears. Nagy, apparently upset about an unsportsmanlike conduct call against Deon Bush, got flagged, himself, between quarters for arguing with the officials.
The Bears then had the ball on the Minnesota 10, only to come away empty-handed when Sheldon Richardson stripped Montgomery and recovered the fumble.
Chicago’s Cairo Santos kicked a 34-yard field goal to cut it to 10-3 with 1:33 remaining in the half.
The Bears had another opportunity in the closing minute when Bush intercepted a deep pass that was nowhere near any receiver and returned it 27 yards to the Minnesota 39. Santos missed a 49-yard field goal on fourth-and-2 that appeared to be tipped by Dalvin Tomlinson.
Cousins made it 17-3 midway through the third with a 7-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Smith-Marsette, who celebrated with a brief nap in the end zone. That drive was aided by two penalties, including one against Teez Tabor for a low hit on a blocker as he tried to trip up Cook on a third-and-18 deep in Minnesota territory.