MINNEAPOLIS - The Bears' disappointing 2016 season mercifully came to an end Sunday with an ugly 38-10 loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Bears committed five turnovers for the second straight week, increasing their total to 14 over their final three games after having just 17 in their first 13 contests.
"Whenever you give the ball away that many times, the math usually doesn't work very good," said coach John Fox. "We had a chance to win [against] Green Bay, kept it close. But these last two [versus the Redskins and Vikings] became problematic."
Matt Barkley committed three of the turnovers Sunday, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble on a sack that Everson Griffen returned 20 yards for a touchdown. Barkley accounted for 12 giveaways in the last three games, including 10 interceptions.
The Vikings (8-8) turned the five Bears turnovers into 24 points Sunday, closing the season with a win after dropping eight of 10 games following a 5-0 start.
The Bears (3-13) finished with their worst record since the NFL expanded to 16 games in 1978 and their second worst in franchise history behind a 1-13 disaster in 1969. After beating the Vikings on Halloween, the Bears dropped seven of their final eight.
One year after posting their worst home record in franchise history (1-7), the Bears went 0-8 on the road for the first time, their first winless season away from home since 1974 when they were 0-7.
As has been the case frequently this year, running back Jordan Howard provided a bright spot in a lopsided loss. The fifth-round pick rushed for 135 yards on 23 carries, setting a single-season Bears rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards.
"He is tremendous," Barkley said. "Just seeing his patience and being in places at the right time, it is very impressive. I think he is going to go up and up and up."
Howard entered the game needing 61 yards to eclipse the mark that Matt Forte had set in 2008 and did so on a 17-yard run up the middle midway through the second quarter.
Another pleasant surprise this year, receiver Cameron Meredith, produced the Bears' only touchdown of the game on a trick play. On third-and-goal from the 2 late in the first half, running back Jeremy Langford took a direct snap from center and flipped the ball to Meredith, who tossed a 2-yard TD pass to a wide open Barkley in the right flat.
The Bears had no answer for quarterback Sam Bradford, who completed 25 of 33 passes for 250 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a 114.5 passer rating. His favorite target was tight end Kyle Rudolph, who had 11 receptions for 117 yards and one TD.
The Vikings took control of Sunday's finale from the outset, scoring on their first three possessions to grab a commanding 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Jerick McKinnon turned a swing pass into a 16-yard TD on the game's opening drive, eluding Adrian Amos to give Minnesota a 7-0 lead. The score was set up by Bradford's 39-yard pass to Cordarrelle Patterson, who beat Cre'von LeBlanc down the sideline.
The Bears marched to the Vikings 16, but Barkley's underthrown pass intended for Alshon Jeffery was intercepted by Xavier Rhodes. Minnesota converted the turnover into Kai Forbath's 21-yard field goal, capping a 14-play, 93-yard drive.
On a play that typified the Bears' season, Langford lost a fumble when teammate MyCole Pruitt bumped into him. The Vikings recovered at the Chicago 35 and converted the turnover into a 17-0 lead on Bradford's 22-yard TD pass to Rudolph.
At that point, the Bears defense had allowed scores on nine of its last 11 possessions excluding a kneel-down at the end of the first half of last week's loss to the Redskins.
After Meredith's TD pass to Barkley, the Vikings recovered a muffed punt by Bralon Addison at the Chicago 21 and extended their lead to 24-7 on Bradford's 1-yard TD pass to Jarius Wright with :18 remaining in the half.
Deonte Thompson returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to the Minnesota 42. Barkley's 31-yard pass to Meredith then set up Connor Barth's 29-yard field goal as time expired in the half, closing the gap to 24-10.
The Bears opened the second half the same way they began the first half-with a Barkley interception as his pass over the middle intended for Meredith was picked off by Trae Waynes at the Vikings 11.
The defense got the ball back, however, as LeBlanc stepped in front of Patterson and intercepted a Bradford pass in the end zone. Prior to LeBlanc's pick, the Bears had 13 giveaways and no takeaways in their last three games.
But the Vikings added a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns in cruising to the victory.