Velus Jones Jr. closed the season with a bang Sunday, racing around right end for a 42-yard touchdown run in the Bears' 29-13 loss to the Vikings.
The rookie third-round pick took a pitch from quarterback Tim Boyle, sped around the edge and tiptoed along the sideline while receiving key blocks from fullback Khari Blasingame and receiver Chase Claypool. The TD enabled the Bears to close the gap to 16-6 with 3:31 remaining in the first half.
"I had the bulldog 'KB' (Blasingame) ahead of me and so literally I was hiding away from the DB because he was trying to find an angle," Jones said. I used my good blocking. KB sealed the deal for me. So when he finally committed outside, KB washed him down and I just stayed inbounds and took off."
Jones also had a 28-yard reception and a 25-yard kickoff return Sunday, becoming the first Bears player with a run, reception and kickoff return all of at least 25 yards in a game since Walter Payton on Dec. 21, 1975—in what coincidentally was the final contest of Payton's rookie season.
After losing his punt-return job following two turnovers earlier in the season, Jones rebounded to show his game-breaking ability. Over the final seven games, he had kickoff returns of 63, 55 and 40 yards.
"Am I surprised by it? No," Jones said to reporters. "I told you guys before that I'm confident in my abilities and stuff like that. It's just all about when an opportunity comes your way, you need to capitalize on it."
New rushing record: With 118 yards rushing Sunday, the Bears set a single-season franchise record with 3,014 yards on the ground. They eclipsed the mark of 2,974 yards set in 1984 on Jones' 42-yard TD run.
"Any time you get a chance to be a part of history, it's cool," said center Sam Mustipher. "It was a lot of fun being able to do that with the guys in this room, the guys that take pride in running the football. Definitely cool to be a part of history."
The Bears became just the fifth team in NFL history to rush for at least 3,000 yards in a season. Justin Fields led the way with 1,143 yards, the second most in NFL history by a quarterback. David Montgomery ran for 801 yards on 201 carries and Khalil Herbert added 731 yards on 129 attempts.
Fields sat out Sunday's finale with a strained hip he sustained last weekend against the Lions.
Leading receiver: Tight end Cole Kmet caught four passes for 57 yards and one touchdown Sunday. The 2020 second-round pick from Notre Dame led the Bears in all receiving categories this season with 50 catches, 544 yards and seven TDs.
"I've seen a lot of guys develop this year, and he is one of them, no question," said coach Matt Eberflus "His blocking has gotten a lot better. His use of his hands and his blocking on the perimeter has really improved. His run-after-the-catch is really amazing.
"I think where he can get even better is him catching in traffic in the red zone, which I think he will improve on, no question. But, man, like I said, he is everything we stand for."
Playing takeaway: With cornerbacks Kyler Gordon, Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Vildor and Jaylon Jones all out with injuries, Harrison Hand and Greg Stroman Jr. made their first starts of the season—and both generated a takeaway.
In the first quarter, Hand stripped the ball from Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and linebacker Joe Thomas recovered at the Bears' 29.
"Went in and attacked the ball," said Hand, who registered nine tackles. "I felt smooth. It was beautiful to be out there with the guys for the last game. I enjoyed the experience."
In the fourth period, Stroman intercepted a Nick Mullens pass and returned it 10 yards to the Bears' 47. It was the second interception of Stroman's NFL career and the first since Nov. 11, 2018, when he played for Washington and picked off the Buccaneers' Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Bears generated eight takeaways in their final four games of the season.
This and that: Cairo Santos, who did not attempt a field goal Sunday, finished the season making 21 of 23 attempts, a 91.3 success rate … Thomas set single-game career highs with 14 total tackles and 10 solo stops … Trenton Gill finished his rookie season with a net punting average of 40.3 yards, the third best in Bears history.
Check out the on-field action as the Bears take on the Vikings at Soldier Field during Sunday's season finale.