It's been a long time since the Vikings offense had a fast start in Chicago.
From Sam Bradford to Kirk Cousins, Vikings quarterbacks haven't led a first-half touchdown drive against the Bears at Soldier Field since rookie Teddy Bridgewater in 2014. Breaking a five-game streak of sluggish starts Monday night could help get an elusive victory in Chicago, where the Vikings have most recently entered halftime with zero points in back-to-back losses.
"We haven't [started fast] since I've been here," running back Dalvin Cook said. "We always kind of like, I don't want to say play at their pace, but we go in and ease our way into the game. I think this year, it's about something different."
The Vikings have started games decently this season, ranking ninth with 6.4 points per first quarter. But they've followed with their worst quarter. Nearly half of Cousins' 11 turnovers have come in the second quarter. But he's coming off two turnover-free games and is looking to keep that streak alive.
"Our defense plays well when we have leads, also," Cousins said. "You try to start fast in every game; sometimes it doesn't happen. And honestly, if it doesn't happen on Monday night, then you have to regroup and find a way to get it done later in the game."
Dantzler returns; Smith sidelined
Cornerback Cameron Dantzler returned to practice Thursday while working his way through the concussion protocol. He was officially listed as limited. Dantzler hadn't practiced since the scary Nov. 1 collision in Green Bay that left him strapped to a backboard. He could return by Monday night, joining Jeff Gladney, Kris Boyd, Chris Jones and Harrison Hand at cornerback.
The Vikings offense practiced Thursday afternoon without two key pieces — tight end Irv Smith Jr. (groin) and fullback C.J. Ham (noninjury/shoulder). Smith exited the Lions game Sunday in the third quarter after his second touchdown catch.
Cornerback Holton Hill won't return anytime soon after being placed on injured reserve this week. Coach Mike Zimmer wasn't optimistic when asked if Hill could play again this season. He's been sidelined since Oct. 4 because of a foot injury.
"It's been going on a lot longer than we anticipated," Zimmer said. "We'll just kind of have to see."
'What the rules are'
Amid rising COVID-19 cases around the country and in Minnesota, this week's announcement that no Vikings fans will be allowed inside U.S. Bank Stadium for the remaining four home games didn't surprise Zimmer.
"We kind of anticipated that's the way it was going to go," Zimmer said. "We weren't getting much help from the governor, so it's what the rules are. Just like everything else this year with the COVID protocols and every other thing, we'll just deal with it and try to do our best."
New yet familiar foe
New Bears edge rusher Robert Quinn will face the Vikings for the fourth consecutive season with a fourth different team after playing with the Cowboys, Dolphins and Rams. He signed with Chicago this offseason, giving the Bears a Pro Bowl pairing with edge rusher Khalil Mack. Quinn has four quarterback hits (two sacks) in his past two games against the Vikings.
"He's a speed guy, and he's always been a guy that's explosive up the field," Zimmer said. "He has long arms to come back off the speed [rushes], and with him and Mack on the other side, it makes it difficult."