Week 17 Game Recap: Chicago Bears 10, Minnesota Vikings 34
What you need to know
With Chicago having nothing really to play for, the following key players were inactive for the game: WR Muhsin Muhammed, S Mike Brown, CB Charles Tillman, DE Adewale Ogunleye, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer, and NT Ian Scott. Amongst the key players who did start the game, most of them were out by the second quarter at the latest.
QB Rex Grossman did not play in the game, but was active. Word was that the Bears feared him getting injured, even though this may have been an opportunity to continue shaking off any rust he may have.
RB Thomas Jones closed his season out on a huge high note. He became only the second Bearsí RB in team history to gain at least 1,300 rushing yards in a single season. The only other player to do so was the legendary Walter Payton, who achieved the feat nine times.
HC Mike Tice watched his team win one last time for him, and he was then fired before even leaving the stadium. There is no speculation at this point as to what Ticeís future is or what direction the Vikings will be headed in 2006.
Both RB Michael Bennett and RB Mewelde Moore carried the ball six times, and each responded with high levels of productivity, especially considering the defense they went up against. Still, neither player really lived up to fantasy owners expectations at the beginning of the season.
QB Brad Johnson had a very solid, efficient game. He used mostly underneath routes and didnít take many chances downfield. His status for 2006 is up in the air, but with Daunte Culpepperís status very much undecided, Johnson is worth keeping an eye on this off season.
What you ought to know
|QB Kyle Orton, Pass: 6 - 14 - 59 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0|
Orton started in place of Rex Grossman and didnít do much to warrant switching back to Orton anytime soon. He completed fewer than 50% of his passes, for very limited yardage. Not to mention failing to find the end zone, something Jeff Blake was quickly able to do upon entering the game.
Blake was very solid and showed surprising mobility during his brief time in the game. He led the Bears on one late scoring drive that resulted in a touchdown pass over the middle to a wide open Justin Gage.
Jones became only the second Bearsí RB in club history to attain 1,300 rushing yards in a single season. The other was Walter Payton, who did it nine times. He had one big run in the game, a 35 yard burst up the gut early in the second quarter. After that run put him firmly ahead of that 1,300 yard plateau, he took a seat on the bench and remained there the rest of the game. The Bears had nothing to play for, and there was no need to risk their best offensive player in a meaningless game. With the season he just turned in, Jones has now increased his rushing yardage total each season heís been in the league, a span of six years. Jones had an opportunity to score a touchdown on a first quarter drive, but was stuffed at the four.
Peterson was the recipient of a reception on an early fake punt by Chicago. His only other play of significance was when he was stuffed on a fourth and short run late in the second quarter. He did nearly score late in the contest when he was brought down at the five, but if you were one of the six people who had Adrian Peterson in your lineup this week, weíd like to know how you possibly made it this far into the season.
Benson obviously didnít live up to the hype as an early first round pick this season. The presence of Thomas Jones obviously hurt Benson, who was never able to find his way after a prolonged holdout. Perhaps Bensonís role will increase in 2006, but itís difficult to see him as the primary ball carrier after the season Jones just turned in. Of course, weíll keep you on top of everything this off season with regard to this and other job battles around the league.
With so many others sidelined for various reasons, Gage was really the only productive player for the Bears from a fantasy perspective. He was targeted early and often, though never on any deep routes. It was mostly underneath stuff. His reception to target ratio was excellent, as only two passes intended for him failed to reach the target. He was tackled at the 5 yard line following an early first quarter reception, but didnít come close to scoring again until his late touchdown in the fourth quarter. With so many similarly talented receivers in the stable, itís difficult to recommend Gage very highly either for playoff fantasy or for 2006, but for this game at least he had a solid outing.
Both of Berlinís targets came late in the game, and both were on crossing patterns. Obviously, one need only check the box score to see that the Bears didnít have a ton of success in the passing game.
Reid was only targeted twice, and did nothing of significance to stand out.
Gould connected on a chip shot 22 yard field goal early in the first quarter. He later connected from 52 yards out, but had the kick negated by a holding penalty. The Bears punted the ball away on the next play.
Just looking at the sideline, one got the sense that the Bears defensive stars were itching to get back into the game and protect what was theirs to this point Ė the leagueís number one defensive ranking. LB Brian Urlacher appeared to be especially antsy, even resorting to conversing with sideline reporter Tony Siragusa at one point, so you know he was desperate. With the second unit guys in the game, itís tough to get a good read on how well they did, but put it this way: allowing separate 33 and 61 yard runs are usually not a sign indicative of defensive excellence. Minnesota had 151 yards on the ground with two touchdowns on just 16 carries, by far Chicagoís worst defensive performance against the run all season long.
Chicago was gunning for the franchise record of fewest points allowed (187), set by the 1986 team. After giving up 34 in this game (the most theyíve allowed all year), this yearís point total allowed raised to 202. The main reason the Bears were unable to slow Minnesota appeared to be too much focus on containing the deep passing game. It seemed that whenever the Vikings tried to go up top with a pass, there were always multiple Bears in the area. Yet on just about every underneath route, screen, and sideline pass, there was about five yards of daylight between the receiver and the nearest defender every time. At the expense of defending the deep ball, the Bears allowed a ton of short passes to be completed for six, seven yards at a time. Despite several key defenders on the bench and/or the inactive list, they actually got decent pressure on Brad Johnson early on. Yet as the game wore on, that pressure was less and less until it was pretty much non-existent. CB Nathan Vasher nearly came up with a first quarter interception of Brad Johnson, but couldnít hang onto the football.
Minnesotaís plan of attack was really quite obvious. They would go at Chicago with a series of short, quick passes. Everything was completed underneath, and Johnson rarely took shots downfield. The offense worked, however, as they were able to put up nearly 250 yards and 2 scores through the air. Despite the fact that the Vikings were never able to connect on a deep ball, they at least kept the Chicago defense honest by taking the occasional shot downfield. Johnson caught breaks on two occasions. One, a ball he threw was nearly intercepted by Nathan Vasher, but the CB couldnít hang on. Two, another pass in the end zone was deflected in the air, where it hung up for several seconds but it eventually fell harmlessly to the turf incomplete.
Itís a bit early to speculate on Johnsonís status for 2006 and for your sake hopefully your keeper notification can wait awhileÖand hopefully Brad Johnson isnít a potential keeper. The good news is, even if either of these is true, weíve got plenty of opportunities to help you out. With the status of Daunte Culpepper up in the air due to his knee injury, Johnson could be something of an intriguing late-round pick for 2006.
Moore, like Michael Bennett, thrived despite a limited number of touches for the game. Moore had more of an impact in the passing game, with a game high six receptions. One of those receptions resulted in a touchdown grab, a play on which Moore had to fight for every yard he got. While he did score on a seven yard screen pass, his day could also have been a bit better. He was brought down at the two following a huge 33 yard scamper. Backup Ciatrick Fason scored on the very next play. As mentioned above, this may have been Michael Bennettís final game as a Vikings. If it is, then Moore will be right in the mix next season for the starting tailback job. And with a new coaching staff coming in, doghouses and such will be out the window in all likelihood.
Bennett had a very solid performance and provided a glimpse of what Vikings fan and management had hoped to see more of throughout the years. The veteran RB broke off a 61 yard touchdown run for the final score of the contest. His day could have been even bigger, but he was taken down at the twp yard line after a fantastic 16 yard run to get there. Mewelde Moore eventually scored on that drive. While Bennett didnít get a large number of touches, he was quite productive with the ones he did get.
Burleson quietly put together a solid game, with all of his work being done close to the line of scrimmage. His longest reception of the game went for just 15 yards, though that was pretty much the modus operandi for most of the Minnesota receivers. Six of Burlesonís eight targets came in the first half.
Taylor showed great hands on an early 25 yard reception over the middle on a pass that was thrown well behind him. He looked pretty good on-field, demonstrating a lot of effort and guts. But he also looked to be having fun off the field, on the sidelines, etc. We donít anticipate Taylor being a starting WR in Minnesota next year, but there are worse fill-ins and bye week fill-ins than Taylor, who actually had a decent season for the amount of time he played.
Williamsonís impact, both in this game and in the season in general, was minimal. Weíll track his progress for you this off season to let you know what pick, if any, you should spend on him in 2006 drafts.
Wigginsí three receptions gave him 69 catches for the season, the second straight year heís led the team in receptions.
Kleinsasserís presence was felt much more on special teams than on offense. His blocked punt in the late third quarter helped set up a field goal, which put the Vikings up by 24 and officially put the game away.
Edinger banged in field goals of 54 and 27 yards. The 54 yarder was quite impressive, as it appeared to have a bit of room to spare. It was in a dome, but he showed that heís still got the leg strength to boot one from 50+.
Despite Thomas Jones not playing after the second quarter, the Vikings still allowed over 150 yards on the ground to a depleted Chicago offense. Considering the poor state of the Bearsí passing game, itís really quite amazing that hey had the success they did on the ground. Still, some credit should be given Minnesota for coming up with several key stops when they needed to; namely, Thomas Jones getting stuffed at the four yard line on a drive that resulted in a field goal, and another drive on which Adrian Peterson was stuffed for no gain on a fourth and one run.
Aside from a fake punt and one nice drive led by Jeff Fisher, the Vikings couldnít have done a much better job of defending the pass. They sacked the Bears three times, and allowed a grand total of 121 yards through the air (and that includes an 18 yard fake punt pass play). Of course, most of the Bearsí skill position players were long gone or never even suited up, so it wasnít as if this came against a juggernaut offense. Still, they did what they needed to do in order to earn the win. S Brandon McGowan was shaken up on one play and remained on the ground in a lot of pain for several moments, but was eventually able to walk off the field under his own power.