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Jerick McKinnon re-emerges for diverse Vikings offense in win vs. Bears

MINNEAPOLIS -- A year ago, running back Jerick McKinnon was one of the Minnesota Vikings' chief playmakers on offense in Adrian Peterson's absence. He posted 673 yards from scrimmage in 11 games, turning into the team's primary running back in 2014 before a low-back injury ended his season.

McKinnon has been a forgotten man most of this season with Peterson back in the fold. But on Sunday, McKinnon was emblematic of a diversified Vikings offense that seems to be figuring things out before the playoffs.

The Vikings are almost assuredly headed to the postseason after a 38-17 win Sunday over the Chicago Bears, and they appear to be hitting their stride on offense at the right time. Teddy Bridgewater fashioned a career-high 154.4 passer rating by again spreading the ball around to a large group of receivers. He hit seven different players with his 20 passes, completing four to McKinnon for 76 yards and a touchdown. McKinnon, a converted quarterback, caught the Vikings' attention in part because of what he could do as a receiver, and his first big gain Sunday came on one of the plays where the Vikings flexed him out of the backfield.

The diversity the Vikings are showing on offense is what they hoped they'd have all season. It's not coming through an offense that's been particularly adept at stretching the field, but Bridgewater was only sacked once Sunday and threw four touchdowns for the first time in his career. If he can find playmakers as quickly and effectively as he did Sunday, the Vikings can be successful in their most important games coming up.

What it means: The Vikings moved to 9-5 and put themselves on the precipice of their first playoff spot since 2012. They can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the New York Giants next Sunday night or if the Seattle Seahawks lose to the Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon. And if the Vikings beat the Giants at home next week, they'll assure themselves of an NFC North title game in Week 17 at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings will also be assured of that scenario if the Packers lose one of their next two games, no matter what happens between the Vikings and Giants next week.

One reason to get excited: Even without Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith, the Vikings' defense held firm against the Bears' offense, limiting Chicago to 10 points until the Bears scored a late touchdown after the Vikings had put the game out of reach. Rookie Danielle Hunter continues to impress, and he and Brian Robison helped pressure Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on a handful of stunts when Robison was lined up at tackle in the Vikings' nickel package.

One reason to panic: The Vikings will need to get healthy on defense before the playoffs, but there wasn't much of a reason to fret on Sunday. Minnesota built a 10-0 lead and controlled the action for most of the day against the Bears, whom the Vikings swept for the first time since 2007.

Fantasy watch: After going six games without a touchdown, rookie receiver Stefon Diggs scored two in his second game against the Bears. Diggs, who ran 36 yards after the catch for a 40-yard game-tying score Nov. 1 against the Bears, hauled in touchdown passes on his first two catches of the day Sunday.

Ouch: Peterson left the game late in the first half after his ankle bent awkwardly on a 9-yard run but returned with 4:19 left in the third quarter. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes left the game with what appeared to be a knee injury but also returned to the game.

After being cut, Trattou second on team in interceptions: The Vikings brought back defensive end Justin Trattou earlier this week, after releasing him before their game last week against the Arizona Cardinals. And after he pulled down a Cutler screen pass for an interception, the defensive end is second on the team in interceptions. Trattou now has two picks this season, one behind Terence Newman.