Kicker Dan Bailey fist-bumped holder Britton Colquitt after making his final pregame field goal, from the Vikings' Norseman logo at 56 yards away. That bit of confidence foretold Bailey's rebound on Sunday during a 33-27 loss to the Bears.
Bailey made all five kicks against Chicago — three extra points and two field goals — booting his way out of a career-worst slump that had coach Mike Zimmer questioning the veteran's job status after last week's loss in Tampa Bay. Bailey, a 32-year-old former Pro Bowler, had made just three of his last 10 kicks.
Bailey's longest kicks were the three extra points from 33 yards away, as he made chip-shot field goals from 22 yards and 24 yards for a sputtering red-zone offense.
He overcame a poor result on the opening kickoff, which set up the Bears to start at their own 39-yard line. Bailey's squib kick to avoid returner Cordarrelle Patterson — the former Vikings' first-round pick who had a returned touchdown last month against Minnesota — bounced at the 25-yard line was pitched back to Patterson for a 19-yard return.
"Like I told the team the other day," Zimmer said last week after sticking with Bailey, "there's not one guy on our football team that hasn't had a bad day. That's just part of life.
"We're not going to dwell on it. Everybody else will, but we're not."
On Saturday, the Vikings signed 28-year-old journeyman kicker Taylor Bertolet to the practice squad after working him out last week.
Cook approaches record workload
With two games left in the season, running back Dalvin Cook is 50 touches away from the most by a Vikings player in a single season. After handling 29 touches from scrimmage for 159 yards and a touchdown against the Bears on Sunday, Cook has 339 touches, trailing only Tennessee's Derrick Henry (340) among NFL players.
Cook is edging Henry in production with a league-leading 1,833 yards from scrimmage, but his remarkable 5.4 yards per touch is still behind Adrian Peterson's six-yard average during the 2012 MVP season. Peterson's 388 touches that year are the current Vikings record.
Backup running back Alexander Mattison had just two touches for 15 yards in his return from a Dec. 5 appendectomy.
Deep shots stifled again
A week after quarterback Kirk Cousins completed just one pass over 20 yards, he could only manage a couple deep completions during Sunday's loss to Chicago. Continued "shell coverage," as Cousins noted, aimed to take away the deep ball to receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen as Bears coaches often held back safeties and let the front seven try to stop the run.
On both deep throws to Jefferson for gains of 21 and 23 yards, Cousins took hits from a strong Bears pass rush. Cousins was under frequent duress, taking three sacks and 11 hits. It's his third straight game with double-digit hits from the defense.
"A couple other times they had a good rush," Cousins said. "They did get in and it forced me to kind of have to progress more quickly. It's kind of a combination of factors there. They did do a good job. We weren't able to hit those explosive plays."
Defenders nicked up
Three more players were banged up for an injury-riddled Vikings defense, which was without linebacker Eric Kendricks (calf) for the third game in a row.
Linebacker Troy Dye was evaluated for a concussion and did not return after a third-quarter collision with safety Harrison Smith. Nose tackle Armon Watts and cornerback Cameron Dantzler limped off the field in the fourth quarter. Neither had injuries announced by the team.
Dantzler had his right leg evaluated in the medical tent before returning and intercepting Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the end zone.
"I was 100 % going to come back in the game, because our coach said this game is an elimination game," Dantzler said. "So, wrap me up and get back in and finish."