CHICAGO – After the Bears’ defensive front dominated the Vikings in Sunday night’s 25-20 loss at Soldier Field, coach Mike Zimmer deflected blame away from an offensive line that allowed big games by stars Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks.
“I think it’s easy to throw blame on one group when there were a lot of things that happened in the course of the ballgame,” Zimmer said. “Our offensive line is fighting their rear ends off, so I’m not going to place blame on them.”
The Vikings offensive line came off the bye week healthier than the group had been since Oct. 7 in Philadelphia, which was the last time all five starters were available.
That didn’t matter in the end. The Vikings surrendered nine tackles for a loss — eight were divided among Bears front men Mack, Hicks and Leonard Floyd — while the offense was a porous mess. The longest drive before the fourth quarter lasted just 30 yards, and it ended in a Dalvin Cook fumble forced by Mack.
Cook ran into a wall as Mack worked through tight end Kyle Rudolph to punch the ball out of his hands.
“He made a play,” Cook said. “That’s what he’s been doing since he got there. He made a play, just stuck his hand out there. It was a gift for them.”
The Vikings keep “gifting” their opponents the ball. It’s the third straight game in which the Vikings offense has committed at least two turnovers. Two of those games — against the Saints and Bears — ended in losses.
Throughout the bye and ensuing week of practices, Zimmer dictated three emphases for the offense: protect the ball, convert in the red zone and run the ball effectively.
“Really, those were the three keys on offense,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “And you look at the game, we didn’t really do those three things. Now it’s no surprise we didn’t win.”
The Vikings’ run game was ineffective before coordinator John DeFilippo abandoned it. On third down on the Vikings’ opening drive of the game, right tackle Brian O’Neill was forced into the backfield by Hicks, who tackled Latavius Murray for a loss. Center Pat Elflein was later called for holding on Hicks, who still got immediate pressure during a third down. Left tackle Riley Reiff also let Mack affect some of Cousins’ throws in the first half.
Both guards Mike Remmers (low back) and Tom Compton (knee) were hobbling through the game after being listed questionable to play due to injuries. Compton eventually bowed out in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Danny Isidora.
“Basically, went out there and did what I could,” Compton said. “Coming in at halftime, it was bothering me a little bit, so I tried to fight through it, but I couldn’t just finish the game.”