Kicker Dan Bailey had $250,000 riding on making every field goal Sunday, right up until his fourth and final conversion during the Vikings’ 21-19 loss to the Bears.
Bailey, who finished the regular season making 27 of 29 field-goal attempts [93%], doubled his salary with a $1 million incentive for clearing a 90% threshold established in his one-year contract. Bailey’s base salary for this season was also $1 million.
Had Bailey, who was not available for interviews after the game, missed any of his four field goals from 34, 37, 38 and 39 yards, his percentage would have dipped below 90% and the incentive would have followed by dropping to $750,000.
Bailey, 31, put himself in good position for a contract extension this offseason just months after the team traded a 2020 fifth-round pick to Baltimore for kicking competition in Kaare Vedvik.
Bailey’s playoff appearance next weekend during the NFC’s wild-card round will be his first since he made all five kicks (three field goals, two extra points) in the Cowboys’ 34-31 loss to the Packers in the divisional round following the 2016 season — including a 52-yard, game-tying field goal with 35 seconds left.
In three playoff games, Bailey is 4-for-6 on field-goal attempts and 8-for-8 on extra points.
A long journey
Third-year offensive lineman Aviante Collins said he’ll “cherish this the rest of my life” after making his first NFL start against the Bears. Collins started at left tackle and moved to left guard, marking his first extended playing time since the 2018 preseason. A torn biceps last year and a knee injury in August derailed much of the past two seasons for Collins, the undrafted TCU product.
“It’s been a long journey for me,” Collins said. “We’ve all been waiting for this. I’d never had my opportunity to go out there and show people what I could do because of injuries. So I’ve come back, been healthy and showed what I can do. I’m proud of that.”
‘Super valuable’ reps
In a game where the result didn’t matter, quarterback Sean Mannion had mixed feelings about emerging from his second NFL start with a loss. Mannion, who completed 12 of 21 passes for 126 yards and two interceptions, said the reps were “super valuable” in the event he replaces Kirk Cousins at any point in the playoffs.
“If we’re being realistic, it’s impossible to make [practice] exactly like the game,” Mannion said. “This was a super valuable experience. Again, you don’t really think of it in those terms kind of coming off a loss.”
Smith Jr. sets record
On Sunday, tight end Irv Smith Jr. broke a 25-year Vikings rookie record when he caught his 36th pass of the season against the Bears. Smith’s 11-yard grab in the first quarter moved him ahead of former Vikings tight end Andrew Jordan, who had 35 catches as a rookie during the 1994 season. Smith said his focus has already moved onto the postseason.
“We view this as a whole new season for us,” Smith Jr. said. “It is a blessing to make the playoffs, and we are going to give it our all.”
Hill, Watts injured
The Vikings and Bears didn’t escape unscathed as a handful of players exited because of injuries. Right tackle Rashod Hill was headed for the X-ray room at U.S. Bank Stadium after limping off the field in the fourth quarter. Rookie nose tackle Armon Watts was also helped off the field after suffering an apparent leg injury in the second half.
A concussion knocked Bears return man Cordarrelle Patterson out of the game in the first quarter. Chicago also lost receiver Anthony Miller because of a shoulder injury in the second quarter.