The Bears had no one to blame but themselves after suffering a crushing loss to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at Soldier Field.
After the Bears took a 20-13 lead on Jay Cutler's 4-yard touchdown run with 4:55 left in the fourth quarter, they made three costly mistakes that enabled the Vikings to score 10 points in the game's final 1:49 to escape with a stunning 23-20 victory.
First, nickel back Sherrick McManis allowed rookie Stefon Diggs to spin away from him and turn a short pass into a 40-yard TD that tied the score 20-20 with 1:49 to play.
Rookie running back Jeremy Langford followed by dropping a third-down pass that would have given the Bears a first down but instead led to a punt.
The third miscue came when safety Antrel Rolle allowed receiver Charles Johnson to slip in front of him and make a 35-yard catch at the Chicago 27, setting up Blair Walsh's game-winning 36-yard field goal as time expired.
"We fought, we battled and our guys competed," said coach John Fox. "It's not lack of effort or lack of want-to. But in key moments, you've got to make plays."
Both McManis and Langford were in the game due to injuries to nickel back Bryce Callahan (concussion) and running back Kyle Long (knee), respectively.
It was the second straight heartbreaking loss for the Bears (2-5), who dropped a seesaw 37-34 contest in overtime to the Lions Oct. 18 in Detroit.
"It seems like we get into a lot of these games and we're not coming off on the winning side enough," said Cutler, who completed 22 of 33 passes for 211 yards and a 94.4 passer rating. "Coach Fox said it best: There are not a lot of blowouts in the NFL. You're going to be in some tight games and you've got to find a way to win in the fourth quarter."
The Bears defense played well before the Diggs touchdown, keeping the Vikings out of the end zone for the game's first 58 minutes. Minnesota's only TD over that span came on Marcus Sherels' 65-yard punt return in the first quarter.
Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 17 of 30 passes for 187 yards and a 72.5 passer rating. Adrian Peterson rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries but didn't have a run over 12 yards.
The Bears offense struggled most of the first half, mustering just 69 yards on 20 plays before cornerback Kyle Fuller provided a wake-up call with a key takeaway.
Fuller intercepted a Bridgewater pass intended for Diggs and returned it 15 yards to the Vikings' 34. Three plays later, Cutler lofted a 21-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery, who made a magnificent catch in the left corner of the end zone, outleaping cornerback Xavier Rhodes to tie the score 10-10 with :42 left in the half.
"I think it was a better throw than my route, actually," Jeffery said. "He just threw it up and gave me a chance. It was a double move, but the corner didn't bite. It was a great throw and I made a great catch."
Jeffery displayed his playmaking ability all game, catching 10 passes for 116 yards. His key 5-yard reception on fourth-and-one from the Minnesota 33 sustained a possession that resulted in Cutler's go-ahead TD with just under five minutes to play.
The quarterback bulled into the end zone from the 4, capping a 14-play, 74-yard drive that burned 8:34 off the clock and gave the Bears a 20-13 lead. But the Vikings rallied, snapping a seven-game skid at Soldier Field with their first win in Chicago since 2007.
"It's tough," Cutler said. "I feel bad for the guys. I know they fought hard. At this point we can't point fingers. You can't listen to some of the stuff on the outside. We've got to find a way to unite the guys and keep getting better each and every week.
"We've got good coaches, we've got good schemes. We've got to find some better ways to execute as players and find ways in the fourth quarter to close out games like this because we're not far away. We're not far away at all."