Unlike the later game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, the early game between the Vikings and the Bears was only important for figuring out who’d end up in the NFC North basement (but also who’d get the better draft picks in 2015). It may have been for the best that the Winnipeg CTV affiliate chose not to show the Minnesota home game and instead opted for a game with some kind of playoff relevance. I can’t really blame them.
At 1500ESPN, Andrew Krammer gives us an overview of the game:
The Minnesota Vikings were just getting started, with a rookie quarterback and a first-time head coach.
Jay Cutler and the rest of the Chicago Bears played again like they were ready for the season to be over.
Teddy Bridgewater threw the go-ahead 44-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen in the third quarter, guiding the Vikings to a 13-9 victory on Sunday to put one more blemish on a forgettable year for the Bears.
Blair Walsh kicked two field goals, Audie Cole had 11 tackles in his first start of the season and the Vikings (7-9) ended coach Mike Zimmer’s first year on a winning note.
Jay Cutler returned from a one-game benching with 172 yards on 23-for-36 passing without a fumble or an interception, but he rarely threw long and the offense was off all afternoon with a series of unforced errors.
The Bears (5-11) finished with their worst record in 10 years, perhaps the last game for coach Marc Trestman.
After the Vikings drove 61 yards to the 3, Matt Asiata was stuffed for no gain on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 to give Cutler and the Bears one last opportunity with 2:53 left and a four-point deficit.
They bungled it, metaphorically for this mess of a season. Three penalties, including two false starts, plus an incompletion doomed the drive.
With the regular season out of the way, and no post-season games in sight, some of the Vikings fanbase are already talking free agency and the rookie draft next year. While the Vikings appear to finally have their answers at head coach and quarterback, there are other roster positions that could (and should) be upgraded before training camp opens in 2015. There were players on the roster this year that more than earned their salaries (Bridgewater, Barr, McKinnon, Floyd, Rhodes, Smith, and Asiata, to name a few), and there were others who may not be with the team next year due to either salary concerns (Jennings, Peterson, Greenway, Robison) or performance issues (Munnerlyn, Patterson, Charlie Johnson, Robinson). Every team faces roster turn-over every off-season — it’s a cliché that it’s just business, but it’s a cliché for a good reason.
Earlier this week, Dan Zinski made the case that the team wasn’t sold on Munnerlyn as the answer to their backfield woes:
You could maybe forgive some of Munnerlyn’s struggles early in the season when he was still getting used to the scheme, but as the year has worn on, the cornerback has continued to blow assignments and hurt the team. Week after week, when confusion reigns in the Vikings’ secondary, it always seems Munnerlyn is the one being barked at by his teammates and coaches.
The veteran player you brought in specifically to bring stability to a young secondary is not supposed to be the one still getting lost in week 16.
When he’s not losing track of where he’s supposed to be, Munnerlyn is often flat out getting physically dominated. Captain is a smaller corner but, like Antoine Winfield, he came to the Vikings with a reputation for playing bigger than his size. We haven’t seen much evidence of that thus far in Minnesota, and the comparisons to Winfield now seem ridiculous.
If it’s Mike Zimmer’s intention to create a good secondary filled with players who play smart and play hard, I don’t see how Munnerlyn can be part of the plan. When Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer and the rest of the brain trust sit down to grade personnel and make decisions about the future, they should absolutely consider moving on from Captain Munnerlyn.
Contract-wise, cutting loose from Munnerlyn would not be difficult at all. The three-year deal Munnerlyn signed before the season was structured so that very little dead money would be left after the first season. Per Over the Cap, dumping Munnerlyn would save the Vikings $3.1 million in 2015 and $4.25 million in 2015.
The Vikings clearly had their doubts about Munnerlyn and constructed a contract that would give them the option to move on after one year with only a small penalty.
Update: PFF grades the best Viking performers in yesterday’s game.
Audie Cole, LB: +7.8
Breakdown: Chad Greenway has been a fantastic servant to the Minnesota Vikings, but Audie Cole’s performance in this game suggested that maybe it is time to move on. Cole was all over the field, making tackles in the run game, pass game, breaking up passes and even intercepting one that was nullified because of a defensive offside flag.
Signature Stat: Cole’s grade in this game is a better figure than Greenway has ever achieved. The last game Greenway has even had in that ballpark was in Week 11 of the 2008 season.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB: +4.0
Breakdown: The numbers might not be as pretty as a week ago, but this was another extremely accomplished performance from the Vikings’ rookie. His accuracy was on point most of the game and deserved better production but for a couple of passes bouncing the wrong way once they reached their intended targets. For the second week in a row he ended up with an interception that hit his receiver in the hands.
Signature Stat: With five dropped passes, one batted at the line and one thrown away, Bridgewater only actually missed on one ‘aimed’ pass all game. An Accuracy Percentage of 95.7%, best of the week.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR: -1.2
Breakdown: How far has Patterson’s star fallen this season? From a player tipped to have a huge year, he ends the season playing just six snaps on offense, and causing an interception by dropping the ball the only time he was targeted. With teams routinely kicking away from him on kickoffs too, his potential impact there has been almost entirely negated.
Signature Stat: Over the last five games Patterson has played just 28 snaps, 20 fewer than he played in the season opener.