The Minnesota Vikings did what they had only done once this season: win a game by more than one score. In Week one, the Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers by 16 and did the exact same against the Chicago Bears with a 29-13 win at Soldier Field.
The game itself was a great opportunity for the Vikings to give some of their younger players valuable snaps heading into the playoffs, especially offensive linemen Vederian Lowe and Kyle Hinton on the offensive line.
In the game, there were quite a few standout performances and only a couple of poor ones. Here is the final regular season edition of studs and duds.
Stud: K.J. Osborn
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) warms up wearing a shirt honoring Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin (3) before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings still need to upgrade their wide receiver room this offseason but it isn’t because of Osborn’s performance. He started off the game with a 66 yard catch to set up the Vikings’ first touchdown which was a four-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen. Osborn was one of the few starters who played the entire way and he earned the second 100-yard game of his career.
Dud: Kevin O'Connell
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on during the first half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, it’s his first season but the fact that we continue to see O’Connell struggle with clock management is extremely frustrating. Yes, there were circumstances that were out of his control with the officials messing up restarting the play clock when Alexander Mattison failed to get into the end zone, but allowing an outlet route to be in play short of the end zone when you have no timeouts on third down with less than 20 seconds on the clock is another example of not understanding in-game situations. Not a great sign long-term for the Vikings,
Stud: Alexander Mattison
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) celebrates his rushing touchdown during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports
With the starters coming out at halftime, Mattison got some extended playing time and he took advantage of it. Mattison scored two touchdowns on the ground, including 54 yards on 10 rushes. He was running with great vision and an extra level of aggressiveness about him that helped him dominate the Bears defense.
Stud: Duke Shelley
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley (20) signals an incompletion after breaking up a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (9) on Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
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After not getting to play in week five when the Bears came to U.S. Bank Stadium, Shelley was excited to play the team that cast him aside and he was his normal feisty self. Shelley was draped all over the receiver he was defending and had a couple of pass breakups and an interception late in the fourth quarter to boot. Shelley continues to prove that he deserves playing time for this team down the line.
Stud: Jalen Nailor
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) rushes for a touchdown as Green Bay Packers cornerback Corey Ballentine (35) defends during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
I don’t think we are at a point yet where we can play Nailor meaningful snaps this season and feel comfortable with it, but you have to like how he’s played the last two weeks.
While he only played in garbage time against the Green Bay Packers, Nailor played the entire second half and played well. He caught four passes for 62 yards, saw the field well and created separation with his speed. Next season, we could see an increased role for the rookie out of Michigan State.
Dud: Dalvin Cook