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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Ben Goessling

Vikings close the regular season with a 29-13 win over the Bears

CHICAGO — The Vikings won their final game of the regular season to finish 13-4. They managed to beat a disengaged Bears team 29-13 with most of their starters resting the second half, and they appeared to escape Soldier Field with no major injuries before the start of the playoffs next weekend.

It was difficult to derive much else from a game that was played in January but felt like it could have taken place in August.

The Vikings, who'd ruled safety Harrison Smith out because of knee soreness on Saturday, also rested linebacker Brian Asamoah and cornerback Cameron Dantzler with injuries, while keeping linebacker Za'Darius Smith out because of the personal matter that led him to travel separately to the game. They began the day with the hopes of building a big enough early lead that they could get starters out of the game.

The Vikings got off to the crisp start they wanted, with Kirk Cousins completing 17 of his 20 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown against a depleted Bears secondary as Minnesota took a 16-6 lead into halftime.

Cousins hit K.J. Osborn for a 66-yard gain — the Vikings' longest completion of the year — to put Minnesota on the Bears' 4 after three offensive plays. Cousins found Adam Thielen in the back of the end zone on the next play, giving the Vikings a 6-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

Despite the fact Greg Joseph missed the extra point, and former Vikings defensive back Harrison Hand punched the ball out of Dalvin Cook's arms for a fumble on Minnesota's next drive, the Vikings were able to stretch their lead to 16-0 against a Bears team shuffling through backup quarterbacks.

The Bears pulled Nathan Peterman for former Packers and Lions QB Tim Boyle in the second quarter. Boyle's first pass was an overthrow; Patrick Peterson caught Boyle's second throw like a punt, running his fifth interception of the season back to the Chicago 38 to set up a Joseph field goal.

But after Boyle found Cole Kmet for first downs on back-to-back plays, the Bears ran wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. on an end around, with former Vikings fullback Khari Blasingame driving Camryn Bynum out of the way to clear space along the Vikings' sideline. Jones kept his feet in bounds on the way to a 42-yard touchdown that made it 16-6 after the Bears missed a two-point conversion attempt.

Cousins hit Osborn for 30 yards on the Vikings' final drive of the first half to put them in position for what might have been a decisive score. But after two short runs forced the Vikings to use their final two timeouts, Cousins threw short on third down for Cook. The Vikings field goal unit rushed on for a last-second field goal attempt, and Joseph made the kick before time ran out.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus remained on the field after both teams went in to the locker room, though, questioning officials about the field goal. An official threw a flag at the end of the discussion, and referee Brad Allen announced a video review showed the Vikings had 12 men on the field when they attempted the kick. The Vikings' three points were erased.

But when the second half began, Nick Mullens was the Vikings quarterback. He drove them 75 yards for a touchdown, a 1-yard run by Alexander Mattison, and a 23-6 lead.

With Peterman back at quarterback, the Bears got to within 23-13 on their next drive, but got no closer.

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