Monday night’s Bears/Vikings matchup featured a wealth of compelling plotlines. Long-time division rivals butting heads, the return of much-maligned signal-caller Sam Bradford, Mitchell Trubisky’s first NFL start—it was almost enough to make you forget about playoff baseball for a night (I assume this means Ray was pleased by the outcome of Monday’s Red Sox/Astros game. His enthusiasm was not shared by all.).
So naturally, on a night when nothing was expected of him, Case Keenum stole the show. Rather than standing idly by with a clipboard in hand, which had been the original plan for Keenum, the former Houston Cougar was called into action when a gimpy-looking Bradford was benched in the second quarter.
Coming off a three-game absence due to a bone bruise on his surgically-repaired left knee, Bradford looked out of sorts from the start against the Bears. His first two drives resulted in three-and-outs while his third ended with Bradford being sacked in the end zone for a safety. This was a far different Bradford than the one who ripped the Saints to shreds in Week 1. Stripped of his mobility and unable to throw with much strength or accuracy, Bradford seemed mildly relieved when coach Mike Zimmer lifted him for Keenum. Bradford produced just 36 yards on 5-of-11 passing before calling it a night.
Keenum, an undrafted, undersized journeyman who spent last season keeping the seat warm for Jared Goff in Los Angeles, has been predictably hit-or-miss in place of Bradford this year. But when the Vikings needed him to come through on Monday night, he was up to the task. Keenum didn’t challenge Chicago downfield—his longest completion went for all of 19 yards—but he was plenty accurate, completing 17-of-21 throws for 140 yards and a touchdown.
More importantly, he led a six-play, 20-yard drive to set up the game-winning field goal with 12 seconds left. Even if none of his numbers jump off the page, it was still a gutsy effort by Keenum winning in hostile territory against a team the Vikings have traditionally struggled against (this was only Minnesota's second win in its last 10 tries at Soldier Field).
Keenum wasn’t playing with a full deck, either. Stefon Diggs was in and out of the lineup after tweaking his groin early in the second half and never made much of an impact, hauling in just one-of-four targets for four yards. With Diggs hobbled, Keenum spread the ball around to Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph, who capped Minnesota’s first drive of the second half with a 13-yard touchdown. It was Rudolph’s first end-zone visit since Week 1, which, coincidentally, also came in a Monday Night game. Apparently, he’s saving all his touchdowns for primetime.
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With all the drama surrounding Bradford and his never-ending knee trouble, it was easy to forget that the Vikings were also a man down at running back. Second-round pick Dalvin Cook was having a standout rookie season before a torn ACL rudely interrupted his progress in Week 4.
Most assumed Latavius Murray, a touchdown hog with the Raiders and the recipient of a swanky three-year, $15 million contract this past offseason, would be the back to own in Cook’s absence. But if you’ve learned anything from the first 500 words of this article, it should be that the Vikings don’t conform to any of our expectations.
Evan Silva and friend of the site Matt Kelley (aka Fantasy Mansion) both got it right—it was Jerick McKinnon, not Murray, who led Minnesota’s backfield in Week 5. McKinnon did it all for the Vikes, steamrolling his way to 95 rushing yards on 16 carries while also leading the team with 51 receiving yards on six catches. He registered his longest run of the season on a 58-yard touchdown gallop late in the third quarter, disappearing on a play where Chicago’s linebackers got their wires crossed.
Meanwhile Murray plodded his way to 31 yards on 12 carries while adding two catches for 12 yards. The linebacker-sized Murray (6’3/230) should still be first in line for goal-line carries (there weren’t any on Monday night) but Week 5 confirmed that McKinnon is more explosive and a better all-around player than the one-note Murray.
Chicago gave Minnesota all it could handle on Monday, but came up just short in a 20-17 defeat. While the Bears have looked downright awful at times—they weren’t competitive in either of their losses to the Packers or Buccaneers—they’ve also held their own in games with Atlanta, Pittsburgh (who they actually beat) and now Minnesota. And while second-overall pick Mitchell Trubisky was far from perfect on Monday night, his play should give the Bears reason for optimism.
Trubisky’s stats were undoubtedly ugly—12-for-25 for 128 yards with an interception and a lost fumble—as was his lone touchdown pass, a tipped ball that miraculously wound up in the hands of Zach Miller. But the 23-year-old brought a sense of excitement that never existed with statuesque Mike Glennon under center. Trubisky has always been mobile for his size—he rushed for a respectable 308 yards as a junior at UNC—and the Bears did well to highlight that strength on Monday by calling several designed rollouts in an effort to get him outside the pocket. Coach John Fox even drew up some trickery on a perfectly executed two-point try that began with Trubisky handing off to Jordan Howard, who handed off again to Zach Miller, who finally tossed it back to Trubisky for the conversion.
The Bears still featured a run-first offense on Monday night (29 carries compared to 26 passing attempts) but that wasn’t for any lack of faith in Trubisky. Rather, it was an attempt to hide their dismal receiving corps, which is now led by the likes of Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton and Tre McBride. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row and with lead wideouts Cameron Meredith (ACL) and Kevin White (collarbone) both done for the year, Trubisky’s stat lines aren’t going to be a thing of beauty. But the eye test showed a confident, mobile quarterback who can make plays, and that’s about all the Bears can ask for right now.
The Bears failed to complete a pass of 30 or more yards in any of their first four games. That streak was finally broken Monday night, but surprisingly not by Trubisky. Pat O’Donnell hooked up with Benny Cunningham for a 38-yard touchdown on a fake punt in the third quarter. You can’t make this stuff up.
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Quick Hits: Matthew Stafford came out of Sunday’s game with ankle and thigh injuries but should be ready for Week 6 against New Orleans. He hasn’t missed a game since 2010 … The Colts have already ruled out Andrew Luck for Week 6 against the Titans. Luck has been slow to recover from offseason shoulder surgery and may not see the field until November … Colts coach Chuck Pagano wants to get Marlon Mack more “involved” on offense. The fourth-round rookie impressed in his return from a shoulder injury on Sunday, cruising to 91 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in a victory over the 49ers … Speaking of the Niners, coach Kyle Shanahan said he plans to use a hot-hand approach at running back, which is obviously bad news for owners of Carlos Hyde. Undrafted rookie Matt Breida led the backfield with 49 rushing yards in Week 5 while the veteran Hyde slumped to just 11 yards on eight carries … Wendell Smallwood was absent from Monday’s practice after sitting out Week 5 with a knee injury. LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement would lead the Eagles’ backfield if Smallwood can’t go Thursday at Carolina … Lane Johnson has been placed in the concussion protocol, which gives him very little chance of suiting up Thursday night against the Panthers. It’s a significant blow to the Eagles’ offensive line as Johnson owns PFF’s No. 3 grade out of 71 qualifiers at tackle this season … Jordy Nelson injured his hamstring late in Sunday’s win at Dallas, but expects to be fine for Green Bay’s next game against the Vikings in Week 6. Nelson leads the NFL with six receiving touchdowns but ranks just 55th in receiving yards per game (46.0) … It’s all bad news for the Giants, who lost perennial All-Pro receiver Odell Beckham to a broken ankle in Week 5. Coach Ben McAdoo confirmed Monday that OBJ’s injury will sideline him for the remainder of 2017. On top of losing Beckham, the Giants will be without Brandon Marshall (ankle), who is also headed for season-ending surgery. Despite the rash of injuries to New York’s receiving corps, the Giants are not interested in reuniting with Victor Cruz, who has been without a job since getting cut by the Bears at the end of training camp … Bilal Powell remains day-to-day for the Jets after exiting Sunday’s game with a strained calf. With Matt Forte (turf toe) already on the shelf, sixth-round rookie Elijah McGuire could be in for a heavy workload against New England in Week 6 … Chris Foerster resigned from his post as Dolphins offensive line coach Monday after a video surfaced of him snorting what appeared to be cocaine before a team meeting. Foerster was in his second stint with Miami after previously serving as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2004 … Raiders coach Jack Del Rio expects Derek Carr to be under center for Week 6 after missing Sunday’s game with a transverse process fracture in his back. The Raiders have lost three in a row after opening the year with victories over the Jets and Titans … Browns coach Hue Jackson has yet to name a starting quarterback for Week 6. Second-round rookie DeShone Kizer has started all five games for the Browns this year but was benched for Kevin Hogan in the second half of Sunday’s loss to the Jets … In other Browns news, Jamie Collins has finally cleared the concussion protocol and should be back in uniform for Sunday’s game in Houston. It will be his first game action since Week 2 … Texans coach Bill O’Brien confirmed Monday that J.J. Watt will miss the rest of the season with a left tibial plateau fracture. It’s been a rough few days for the Texans, who also lost Whitney Mercilus to a season-ending pectoral injury in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City … The Buccaneers made a change at kicker, signing Patrick Murray while sending Nick Folk to injured reserve. Folk has struggled this year, missing five field goals including all three of his attempts in last week’s loss to New England … Titans coach Mike Mularkey suggested Marcus Mariota (hamstring) could be a game-time decision for Week 6. That would be tricky for fantasy owners with Tennessee hosting the Colts on Monday Night Football.