MINNEAPOLIS – To their credit at least, none of the Bears were pointing any fingers, publicly or privately, at Robbie Gould, whose 47-yard field goal try in overtime went wide right. Nor were there any questioning, implied or explicit, of coach Marc Trestman’s decision to try that kick on second down rather than attempt to edge closer by running another play or two.
There shouldn’t have been any. There was enough blame to go around in the Bears’ 23-20 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings. More than enough.
“I am not sure what to take from this game,” said defensive end Julius Peppers, a reaction eloquent in its simplicity.
Because of the NFC North standings situation, the game amounted to a virtual playoff “elimination” game. After Detroit put down Green Bay on Thanksgiving, this defeat left the Bears 6-6 and effectively two full games behind the Detroit Lions (7-5) because of tiebreakers, with four to play.
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And all four of the remaining games are ones involving difficult conditions as well as some of the teams: Monday night Dec. 9 against Dallas in Soldier Field plus game 16 against the Packers in Chicago, possibly with Aaron Rodgers back; and games at Cleveland and at Philadelphia in between.
Indeed, if the outcome of Sunday’s game were not enough on its own, the fact that it came with the players treating it like a playoff game and still losing was worse, particularly against a team 2-8-1 coming in.
“It is a playoff game,” safety Chris Conte said. “At this point every game’s a playoff game. We tried to approach it like that and we’ve got to win all these games to have a chance to make the playoffs.”
The Bears’ offense piled up 480 yards, most this season, and got a franchise-record 249 of those from Alshon Jeffery’s 12 receptions, two for touchdowns.
And it was also that offense that was amassing yardage but also was 2-for-11 on third downs, was forced to punt four times with the ball in Minnesota’s half of the field, and sustained none of eight second-half possessions longer than 3:37.
The Bears are 0-5 in games when Jeffery goes for more than 100 receiving yards.
The Bears are 2-4 in games when the offense nets 400 yards. The lost this game despite Jeffery’s yardage and touchdowns (the Bears’ only two), Matt Forte rushing for 120 yards, keeping Adrian Peterson out of the end zone and sacking Minnesota quarterbacks five times.
“I don’t know where it all breaks down,” said quarterback Josh McCown. “All I know is that I will look at my performance and see.”
Peterson yardage not decisive
The Vikings have lost three times to the Bears with Adrian Peterson running for more than 100 yards. They were within a Robbie Gould missed field goal of losing this one despite Peterson carrying 35 times for 211 yards.
The Bears went with nine defensive linemen active for the game for the first time. If they had been allowed to play all nine at once, it might have helped.
“I looked at the [Bears’] side and those guys kind of looked winded,” Peterson said. “Conditioning plays a big part becauase once you get tired, you start making mental mistakes and start slacking behind and it can cost you the game.”
That seemed to sum it up. With the offense unable to stay on the field longer than a 3:32 possession in the second half, the Bears blew a 10-point lead in the game’s final 8 minutes.
The Vikings had none of their first-half possessions last longer than five plays. Including two (nine and seven plays) in overtime, five of their seven after halftime lasted at least seven and the other two went five.
“We just didn’t get off the field fast enough in the second half and that started hurting us,” said defensive end Corey Wootton.
Holding the Minnesota Vikings to 17 points should have been enough. And that’s what the Vikings would have finished with without a tying field goal that came after a fourth-and-11 conversion from their own 8-yard line. A 20-yard completion sustained a possession that ended with Blair Walsh tying the game at 20-20 from 30 yards with less than a minute to play.
Devin Hester returned the Minnesota kickoff 57 yards to midfield, only to have the offense take a sack and two-yard gain before trying a 66-yard field goal that came up short.
As have the Bears have since their 3-0 start.