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Vikings defeat Bears to clinch first-round playoff bye

The Minnesota Vikings (13-3) defense smothered the Chicago Bears (5-11) at U.S. Bank Stadium to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC and clinch a first-round playoff bye with a 23-10 win.

Mike Zimmer's team earned the victory in the fashion we've seen all season: a dominating defense, and a chain-moving offense behind a power run game with Latavius Murray and a steady Case Keenum.

The Vikings' defense overwhelmed the Bears' offensive line early, allowing just one first down, minus-1 yard rushing, and 53 total yards in the first half. Led by linebacker Anthony Barr, Minnesota repeatedly hit running back Jordan Howard in the backfield and harassed quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Pressure by Linval Joseph forced a safety from the rookie QB in the second quarter.

If it weren't for a trick punt return for a touchdown from Chicago, the Vikings would have boat raced the Bears in the first half.

Trubisky made a few plays late in the contest down double-digits, but the Vikings' D stood up when needed, holding the Bears out of the end zone on two fourth-down scenarios in the fourth quarter. Minnesota's defense has allowed 10 offensive points scored the past three games combined. Zimmer's squad is on a run the Purple People Eaters would be proud of.

On offense, Latavius Murray pounded his way for two touchdowns and 111 rushing yards on 20 carries, despite a shuffled offensive line -- the first-round bye should help the Vikings' blockers get healthy. Pro Bowler Adam Thielen earned six catches for 61 yards as Keenum's go-to target. Thielen's 91 receptions on the season, are most for a Vikings receiver since Randy Moss in 2003, (111).

The victory sets up Zimmer's squad for a potential championship run. A team with a playoff bye has made the Super Bowl out of the NFC in each of the last five seasons (last NFC team to make SB without bye was 2011 Giants).

Taking care of business in Week 17 boosts the Vikings' record to 12-4 at home since U.S. Bank Stadium opened last season. Minnesota is looking to become the first team to play in the Super Bowl in its home stadium.

The Vikings are the eighth team in NFL history to make playoffs in the same season their stadium is scheduled to host the NFL's championship game -- none of the previous seven made it past the Divisional Round. At 13-3, the Vikings have the best record of any team in a season in which it hosted the Super Bowl.

Owning the most balanced team in the NFC, the Vikes hold a golden opportunity to play a home game for the Lombardi Trophy.

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