On a day when a trio of Vikings running back royalty — Chuck Foreman, Robert Smith and Adrian Peterson — kicked off Monday night's festivities between the Vikings and Bears by sounding the Gjallarhorn, these Vikings struggled to live up to their pound-the-rock standard.
Running back Alexander Mattison started the game, but second-year running back Ty Chandler played an increased role in the Vikings' split backfield. They finished with just 60 combined rushing yards on 14 attempts.
The backfield didn't get many opportunities from head coach Kevin O'Connell, who oversaw an offense that attempted five runs in the initial 16 plays — a span in which quarterback Joshua Dobbs nearly threw three interceptions (the third was dropped by Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson). Dobbs threw two more interceptions in the second half.
Mattison started the third quarter with his longest run of the season, a 21-yard burst up the middle in which he made a decisive cut and flashed a burst that has been lacking from the run game.
The Bears defense entered Monday night stout against the run, allowing a league-low 79.5 rushing yards per game and just 3.4 yards per carry — ranking second in the NFL. But Bears linebackers have struggled to cover running backs in space. Chicago also has allowed a league-worst 696 receiving yards to running backs entering Week 12.
O'Connell tried to take advantage on a third-and-6 play in the third quarter. Chandler went into motion before the snap and released into the flat for a quick pass, but Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds tackled him for a gain of three yards.
Jefferson misses seventh game
Receiver Justin Jefferson was not activated from injured reserve by Monday's deadline, preceding his seventh missed game due to a hamstring injury. Jefferson practiced fully for the first time on Saturday, setting him up for a potential return Dec. 10 in Las Vegas following the team's bye week.
"Hopefully we'll get Justin back," O'Connell said. "He makes everybody around him better."
The Vikings' receiving corps saw mixed results this time. Receiver Jordan Addison tipped a catchable pass into a Dobbs interception in the first quarter. Addison also dropped two balls, including a deep throw on the offense's first play. Receiver Brandon Powell made the standout play with a contested 28-yard grab in the second quarter.
Blackmon starts, Evans sidelined
Rookie Mekhi Blackmon, the third-round pick, made his second NFL start, replacing the injured Akayleb Evans, who remained sidelined by a right calf strain. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores didn't give Blackmon the toughest assignments. Top cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. followed top Bears receiver D.J. Moore for much of the game, although he didn't always match up with Moore in the Vikings' zone coverages.
Moore had the upper hand early in the game, moving the chains for three first downs in the first half. But Murphy and safety Josh Metellus thwarted a Moore screen on third down in the third quarter, leading to a Bears field goal and 6-3 deficit.
Kellar dies at 71
Former Vikings fullback Mark Kellar, of Minneapolis, died on Thursday at age 71. Kellar was drafted by the Vikings in the sixth round of the 1974 NFL draft after a standout career at Northern Illinois.
As a senior, Kellar led the nation with 1,719 rushing yards and scored 16 touchdowns. At the time of his graduation, he was fifth on the NCAA's career rushing list with 3,745 yards. His jersey was retired by Northern Illinois and he is in the NIU Hall of Fame.
Kellar played two seasons in the World Football League (with the Chicago Fire in 1974 and San Antonio Winds in 1975), before joining the Vikings in 1976. He spent three seasons with Minnesota.
- Linebacker Anthony Barr was elevated from the practice squad again and played a diverse role. He was on the field for first, second and third downs. The 31-year-old former Pro Bowler even spied Fields at times — a duty he used to have for former Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer against mobile passers like Russell Wilson. "This guy is a lot faster than Russell," Barr said.
- Edge rusher Danielle Hunter was credited with 1.5 sacks on Bears quarterback Justin Fields, earning Hunter another $1 million bonus for surpassing 12.5 sacks. He has 13.5 sacks this season — just a 0.5 sack away from the last of three $1 million incentives.
- Safety Lewis Cine, the 2022 first-round pick, was active for the first time since the Oct. 29 win in Green Bay. He played exclusively on special teams. Linebacker Brian Asamoah II returned to action after a four-game absence due to an ankle injury.
Joel Rippel contributed to this report.