Vikings CB1 Played the Part of Lockdown Corner 

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings grabbed their second win of the season thanks to a 19-13 win in Chicago. Byron Murphy was one of Minnesota’s big acquisitions for this season, and the Vikings CB1 played the part of lockdown corner at Soldier Field. As the scoreline suggests, it was a day when defense dominated, and the Vikings can largely thank that side of the ball for the win.

Vikings CB1 Played the Part of Lockdown Corner 

Outside of Justin Fields running the ball, the biggest threat the Bears pose on offense is wide receiver D.J. Moore. The Bears WR1 arrived in Chicago as part of the trade that saw the Panthers move up to the first overall pick. Moore was to be the guy who helped Fields grow as a passer, and there has been some success in that regard. Moore came into the game off a career-best 230-yard outing, with two other 100+ yard games this season. Minnesota kept him to just 51 yards, thanks partly to the pressure they created on the quarterback. That same pressure means the Vikings cornerbacks rarely see safety help and have to win one-on-one matchups.

Vikings CB1 Played
Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) catches a pass against the Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Flores did something we don’t usually see from his defense. He had Murphy shadow Moore to both sides of the field — usually, it’s Murphy on the left, Evans on the right, and a lot of zone coverage. Perhaps seeing Moore as the standout threat, Murphy was asked to earn his money and nullify that threat — and he delivered.

In direct competition, Murphy kept Moore to just three receptions and 23 yards and also snagged the game-sealing interception on a target to Moore. In keeping with the Vikings season, Murphy fumbled when tackled running down the sideline. Unusually for this season, Murphy quickly recovered the fumble, and the game was all but won.

It was a good day for Murphy, who received a 72.9 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus. Any time a defense can keep the opposition’s top receiver to just over 50 yards, they can be pleased with their day’s work. Outside of a handful of plays, the Vikings defense shut down the Bears passing game, which only accounted for 113 yards on the day.

Chicago’s Quarterback Troubles

Of course, Fields was forced to leave the game with what we now know to be a dislocated thumb. The Bears QB was in the firing line on Sunday, with Vikings pass-rushers teeing off on him with little resistance from the Bears offensive line. Fields being knocked out of the game wasn’t a huge surprise. In came undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent, who actually provided a bit of a spark for the Bears. He managed 83 passing yards compared to Fields tally of 58 — both threw an interception.

Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Pat Jones II (91) hits Chicago Bears quarterback Tyson Bagent (17) during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chasing the game, Chicago was forced to ask the rookie to throw and get Moore involved. In the first half with Fields at QB, Moore only managed one reception for seven yards. With the game on the line, the Bears looked to find Moore for a possible game-winning touchdown. Murphy got his head around, read the underthrown pass coming back for the interception, and took the ball in front of Moore.

With San Francisco on the schedule, next will Murphy be asked to perform a similar role. The 49ers have Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, but with Samuel and RB Christian McCaffrey struggling with injuries, the 49ers could be down to Aiyuk as their main threat. In that scenario, asking Murphy to shadow Aiyuk as he did Moore would make sense.