What it means: The Vikings finished the season 7-9, winning their first division game over a Bears team that appears headed for an overhaul. Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater had an efficient game, finishing 17-of-25 for 209 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and Matt Asiata had one of his best days of the season (19 carries for 91 yards). The Vikings controlled a lethargic Bears offense, holding them to 264 yards, and went 8-for-15 on third downs as Bridgewater converted several key throws to extend drives.
Stock watch: Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was matched up on Alshon Jeffery for much of the game, and coach Mike Zimmer's plan to have the second-year cornerback shadow a receiver paid off for the third week in a row. Jeffery caught just two passes -- both on in-breaking routes -- for 34 yards, and was targeted just five times. It capped an impressive second season for Rhodes, who continued to show flashes of being a top-end cover corner.
Patterson disappears after gaffe: After a back injury forced Jarius Wright out of the game, Cordarrelle Patterson received some playing time on offense at the end of the first half, but his day on offense ended after the Vikings' first series of the third quarter. Bridgewater's pass to the second-year receiver bounced off Patterson's hands and landed in the arms of Kyle Fuller, who returned the ball to the Vikings' 9. Adam Thielen replaced Patterson in the Vikings' three-receiver sets, catching three passes for 68 yards, including his first NFL receiving touchdown on a 44-yard throw from Bridgewater. Patterson's only action the rest of the day was on kick returns.
Game ball: We're awarding it today to our pick for the team MVP this season: Bridgewater. Without his improvement in the second half of the season, the Vikings' season could have spiraled out of control. Instead, they finished with five wins in their final nine games, and the rookie ended the season with a 6-6 record as a starter. He did all of it with a leaky offensive line, an injured Kyle Rudolph, an insignificant Patterson and no Adrian Peterson. For the first time in years, the Vikings have reason to be confident in their future at quarterback.
What's next: The Vikings (7-9) are done for the season, but they improved by a game-and-a-half over 2013 and have plenty of reason for optimism about 2015, with Bridgewater looking like their franchise quarterback.