A depleted defense with an entirely new secondary more than held its own Monday night at Soldier Field, but another woeful performance by the Bears offense resulted in a 17-9 loss to the Vikings.
Despite playing without all four of their starting defensive backs due to COVID, the Bears held the NFL's third-ranked offense to a season-low 193 total yards--197 yards below its average—permitted just 13 first downs and registered four sacks.
But the Bears offense failed to take advantage of opportunities to score, mustering just one field goal on its first four trips in the red zone and its first seven possessions in Minnesota territory. The Bears' lone TD came as time expired in the game on Justin Fields' 19-yard pass to tight end Jesper Horsted.
"Big picture, not enough points isn't going to win games," said coach Matt Nagy. "That starts with me. You look at this and you see where we had five possessions inside the 21-yard line and came away with three points. It's not good enough.
"I was really proud of our defense. To have your entire secondary out, the way they played, it was relentless: 12 possessions, six three-and-outs, the interception. You felt the energy, you felt the passion, you felt the fight. I don't know how you as a head coach can't just absolutely love that; know what I mean? Those guys that go out and do that, it was impressive. I appreciate that, the way they came in and fought under the circumstances."
The Bears fell to 4-10 and have now lost eight of nine games since improving to 3-2 with a win over the Raiders Oct. 10 in Las Vegas. The Vikings kept their playoff hopes alive by improving to 7-7.
The Bears were once again their own worst enemy, committing costly mistakes including three turnovers and nine penalties for 91 yards.
"That's been the story of the year for sure," Fields said. "It's shooting ourselves in the foot. Once we eliminate those penalties, sacks on my part where I should just throw the ball away, throw the ball down to the ground, once we eliminate those, then we start seeing more points come up on the board and more success from the whole team. I thought the defense played great tonight, and they put us in a position to win."
Here's what transpired in the game:
The Vikings took a 7-0 lead on their second possession of the game on Kirk Cousins' 12-yard touchdown pass to receiver Justin Jefferson in the left corner of the end zone. Jefferson beat Bush on the play.
The Bears then committed their first turnover as Fields, on a designed quarterback run from the Vikings' 47, fumbled when he was hit by cornerback Cameron Dantzler. Linebacker Anthony Barr recovered the ball at the Minnesota 47.
The Vikings converted the takeaway into Greg Joseph's 37-yard field goal, extending their lead to 10-0 early in the second quarter, Minnesota settled for the kick after Robert Quinn registered his team-leading 15th sack of the season.
The Bears then turned the ball over on their second straight possession as defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson stripped David Montgomery and recovered the loose ball at the Vikings' 12. The officials did not see the fumble, but Richardson told coach Mike Zimmer to challenge the play and the ruling was reversed.
After the Bears defense forced a three-and-out, Cairo Santos' 34-yard field goal cut the deficit to 10-3 with 1:33 left in the half. The Bears reached the Minnesota 13 but had to settle for the kick after Fields was sacked for a 13-yard loss on first down.
The Bears had an opportunity to put more points on the board late in the half after Bush intercepted a Cousins pass and returned it 26 yards to the Minnesota 39 with :46 remaining. But the offense failed to pick up a first down and Santos' 49-yard field goal attempt was deflected by defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson.
The Vikings extended their lead to 17-3 on Cousins' 7-yard TD pass to receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette with 5:51 left in the third quarter. The TD capped a 12-play, 77-yard drive that was sustained by two 15-yard penalties against the Bears.
The first flag, for a low block on safety Teez Tabor, was criticized by the Monday Night Football crew. It came after the Bears had seemingly stopped the Vikings on third down and forced a punt, but the penalty instead resulted in a first down.
Damien Williams deflected a Vikings punt that rolled dead at the Minnesota 30. But the Bears failed to take advantage of the excellent field position. On fourth-and-1 from the 21, the offense rushed up to the line, Fields rolled to his right and was sacked for a two-yard loss, turning the ball over on downs.
The Bears defense forced a three-and-out, but Damiere Byrd muffed the ensuing punt and the Vikings took over at their own 37. But the defense held again, forcing another Minnesota punt.
The Bears offense then produced its best drive of the game, marching from its own 10 to the Vikings 7 as Fields completed five straight passes for 63 yards. But after Montgomery was dropped for a two-yard loss, Fields threw three straight incompletions, again turning the ball over on downs. His fourth-down pass was caught by Darnell Mooney, but he only got one foot down in bounds.