CHICAGO -- Soldier Field continues its reputation as the House of Horrors for the Minnesota Vikings, who remain winless against NFC North opponents this season after a 16-6 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 4 on Sunday.
The Bears entered the game down five starters, notably defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and linebacker Roquan Smith. On the sixth play of the game, Minnesota discovered it would be forced to beat back-up quarterback Chase Daniel after Mitchell Trubisky exited early because of a shoulder injury.
The Vikings' offense was put in position against a thinned-out defensive front to capitalize in ways it might not have been able to had the unit been at full strength. But it didn't. The run game was nonexistent. The limitations of Minnesota's offense, centered on quarterback Kirk Cousins, present this team with a conundrum it has yet to solve.
Minnesota walks away from its second loss of the season with a problem that needs a solution before it's too late: How can the Vikings beat good teams with good defenses when they're playing this type of offense?
Describe the game in two words: Gigantic mishap. The Vikings' defense allowed a backup quarterback to methodically work his way into the win column by repeatedly going back to Allen Robinson (7 catches, 77 yards) and Javon Wims (4 catches, 37 yards). Minnesota's offense was embarrassed by yet another good defense that exposed holes on the offensive line and further put Cousins under a microscope where the sustainability of his play in this unit is becoming a serious liability.
QB breakdown: Cousins ran into another dominant defense and the same problems arose from his ball security (two fumbles, both of which came from being strip-sacked) to the way he performed and processed under pressure, averaging 6.5 yards per pass attempt (27 of 36 passing for 233 yards). The Vikings' QB was sacked six times on 36 dropbacks and failed to execute important plays that could have sparked life into this offense, like overthrowing Adam Thielen from a clean pocket on third-and-10 that would've put the Vikings on the board early after the wide receiver burned his defender and had a clear path to a touchdown. We're seeing a common theme here on Cousins' passes of 15 yards or more that stems from him overthrowing his receivers.
Biggest hole in the game plan: Where are Stefon Diggs and Thielen? At one point, fullback C.J. Ham had more targets than either of the Vikings' top two receivers. It's hard to believe that no one else is open downfield and that the only option is to repeatedly check down to the fullback or running back in the flat, but Cousins shied away repeatedly from taking deep shots, outside of a 39-yard throw to Diggs that was all for naught after the QB was strip-sacked a second time on a promising drive that ended in a punt. Whether he didn't have time under pressure or failed to do so for other reasons, it felt as if Cousins wasn't looking downfield when it could have benefited the offense the most.
The Vikings' run game was also nowhere to be found. The 2.5 yards-per-carry that running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison averaged in Chicago on 16 carries (40 total rushing yards) was a far cry from the production Minnesota's run game put up in its first three weeks. Against one of the best run defenses, the Vikings knew they'd have to adjust the way they ran the ball to generate any production. But the lack of execution in doing so took away Minnesota’s most consistent element on offense.