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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings’ defense dismantles Bears, enters playoffs peaking

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings’ defense put a bow on a brilliant season on Sunday by suffocating the Chicago Bears’ offense.

The 23-10 win at US Bank Stadium made for the third straight game in which the Vikings have held their opponents to 10 points or less – and Chicago’s only score on Sunday came on a trick special teams play. In fact, the last offensive touchdown scored against the Vikings was by Cincinnati, who inherited great field position at the end of the game following a Teddy Bridgewater interception.

Defense doesn’t always win championships but it sure as heck helps and the Vikings will enter the postseason as the best defense in the NFL.

Without two of their starting offensive linemen and short on playmaking receivers, rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky had no chance against the Vikings’ superstar-stuffed defense. In the first half, the Bears had the following results on six drives: Punt, punt, punt, punt, safety, punt.

In the past three games against the Bears, running back Jordan Howard had averaged 5.3 yards per attempt rushing. On Sunday, he was given no chance to break out as Linval Joseph stuffed the middle of the field – including on a third-and-1 – and the Vikings’ linebackers and secondary swarmed him before there was any chance to break off a big gain.

Even when Chicago showed a flicker of hope, the Vikings’ defense made two stops in first-and-goal situations for the Bears.

Chicago’s promising rookie quarterback may have a bright future, but Sunday’s matchup was an unfair fight. When he attempted to throw into tight windows, Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes jumped in to break up passes. When he ran play-action, Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter pressured him. When he dumped the ball off short, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks bolted to the ball carrier.

Trubisky finished 20-for-36 with 178 yards. The Bears rushed for 30 yards on 15 carries.

It was like watching each of the last two weeks’ games on repeat. Against the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings’ defense gave up 126 total passing yards. The week before versus Andy Dalton, they allowed 115 yards.

They might not yet be on the level of the ‘85 Bears, but the Vikings’ defense is providing flashbacks of other teams who have gone deep in the playoffs on the back of terrific defenses like the 2000 Ravens, 2002 Bucs and most recently the 2013 Seattle Seahawks and 2015 Denver Broncos.

Not only are they playing at a high level across the board, but the Vikings’ defense is healthy. Every player that started Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints also started Week 17 against the Bears.

We have seen over the last two years the Vikings’ defense can be hindered when less than 100 percent. Last season when Harrison Smith missed a late-season matchup with Indianapolis, the Colts hung 34 on the Vikings. Earlier this year without Everson Griffen, Washington scored 30.

But when the Vikings play their first playoff game at US Bank Stadium, they will run out the masterful defense that Mike Zimmer and the front office took four years to build.

Even players who were doubted before the year have stepped up. Waynes and Barr left the door open with last season’s play to be questioned, but each has reached their potential this year.

The only question you might have is whether the Vikings’ defense needed a tune-up game against a better offense than Cincinnati, Green Bay or Chicago, but they proved worthy earlier in the year that they could slow the elite quarterbacks. They beat Drew Brees, held Matt Ryan to nine points, completely befuddled Jared Goff and mostly made life difficult on Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford.

The Vikings very well may need elite-level defensive play come playoff time. While the offense entered Sunday 10th in the NFL in scoring, injuries on the offensive line have forced them to shuffle. Over the last two weeks, they have shown more weakness than they did during their eight-game win streak.

Not many defenses are good enough to carry a team through the playoffs if their offense sputters, but the way the Vikings finished their season proved they are that good.

The post Vikings’ defense dismantles Bears, enters playoffs peaking appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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