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The Vikings slithered out of Chicago with a stolen victory Monday night like the Grinch after he pillaged Whoville with nary a thought about the dispiriting mess left behind.

At least they had the common decency to spare everyone the electrocardiograms and cold compresses that have kept fans alive and regrettably engaged during a 2021 season destined for the scrapbook and boneyard.

A forgettable 17-9 win over the embarrassing Bears at the Soldier Field house of mirrors keeps everyone in the front office, coaching ranks, locker room and viewing audience in purgatory for another week.

This is going nowhere, but not nowhere fast enough.

Fourteen games have netted seven gains, seven losses and an uninspiring sense of droning inevitability. A tenuous hold on the seventh NFC postseason spot is a fig leaf trying to cover up a multitude of blemishes that make Minnesota look like the expansion playoff team they might be.

You cannot merely escape from a club that lost for the eighth time in nine games. With 14 players and three coaches sidelined because of COVID-19 protocols. Against a rookie quarterback in Justin Fields who has obvious talent, but is in way over his head. And led by dead-man walking Matt Nagy, who got his money’s worth stalking and ranting at the officials like a head coach about to be frog-walked out of Halas Hall.

Chicago looked like an on-field banana republic. The Tombstone City Council trying to instill law and order in a bastion of anarchy.

The Bears (4-10) were flagged for nine penalties, including three personal fouls/unsportsmanlike calls that extended failed Minnesota drives and kept the field and clock tilted toward the grateful Vikings.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 12 of 24 passes for a career-low 87 yards and was sacked four times. He managed two touchdown passes. His interception was made possible after wide receiver Justin Jefferson was assaulted on his route without a flag from an officiating crew that was happy to call every minor traffic violation they could.

But the Vikings’ offense, while still missing star receiver Adam Thielen, was in full identity crisis again. Jefferson was largely ignored despite his score. The running game was non-existent. The offensive line largely AWOL.

From the performances and play-calling, to the urgency, discipline and sheer entertainment value, this game fell out of Private Ryan’s ugly tree and smacked every branch on the way down.

The Vikings produced a paltry 193 total yards compared to Chicago’s 370 and went three-and-out on four consecutive drives in the second half to practically beg Chicago to drive another late-game stake into their hearts.

“I think we’ve got work to do,” Cousins said. “I think there’s a lot to improve upon.”

Anytime now, franchise quarterback.

The Vikings were playing for their playoff lives. The Bears played because they had to.

Chicago drove into the red zone six times and emerged with just a field goal until a last-second touchdown set Las Vegas aflame because it rendered the point-after attempt moot in a game in which Minnesota was favored by seven.

Otherwise, the longtime division rivals treated the country to a nationally televised lobotomy ruled by a pack of quack officials who were so biased for Minnesota they finally ruled Drew Pearson pushed off.

The Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers must be drooling at the prospect of lining up against the Vikings the next two weeks like a caged tiger eyeing a fresh pail of red meat.

No one sober believes Minnesota is going to win at least two of its final three games and stumble into the playoff. And then what? Roll into Tampa, L.A. or back to Lambeau Field and outduel Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford or Aaron Rodgers?

Good teams peak in December and January and position themselves for probable postseason success or valid upsets.

The Vikings are leading themselves and their fan base into another buzzsaw of disappointment. Like the geek whose prom date humored him by saying yes only to shut him down on the dance floor.

We’re left with boring bromides by Cousins and coach Mike Zimmer about having more work to do, that there still is room to improve and that Minnesota still controls its own destiny.

Yes, yes and yes.

But here were the Bears, a storied franchise practically begging to be contracted – or at least gently walked behind the barn and put down -- staying relevant way too long past bedtimes.

Instead, the Vikings soiled themselves with an eight-point win that was as hollow as the echo of mediocrity that has defined them all season.

The lurching continues.

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