MINNEAPOLIS – The Bears closed a disappointing season with another division loss Sunday, falling to the NFC North champion Vikings 23-10 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
With the defeat, the Bears finished the 2017 season with a 5-11 record and an 0-6 mark against division opponents Minnesota, Detroit and Green Bay.
The Bears struggled mightily on offense, failing to score a touchdown while rushing for 30 yards on 15 carries and converting just 1-of-12 third-down chances. In the first half, the unit produced just one first down while rushing for minus-one yard on six attempts.
"My hat's off to every guy in that locker room," said coach John Fox. "The way they battled, the way they fought, I think you saw more of that today. But it's kind of been the tale of our whole season, is just not generating enough offensive points."
Another season-long problem that plagued the Bears again Sunday was penalties; they drew 10 flags for 116 yards, including seven for 91 yards in the first half.
Fox declined to address his future with the Bears after the game, telling reporters: "The league makes me be here to talk about this game and that's what we'll keep it to. And anything after that, we'll keep you posted."
The Vikings (13-3) dominated from the outset Sunday, taking a 7-0 lead on their first possession on Latavius Murray's 1-yard touchdown run. The seven-play, 70-yard drive was highlighted by Case Keenum's 26-yard pass to Stefon Diggs.
Bryce Callahan was called for two pass interference penalties in the first half for 27 and 24 yards. The second infraction occurred in the end zone, setting up Murray's second 1-yard TD run of the day on the next play, making it 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Murray rushed for 111 yards on 20 carries in the game.
Callahan later made amends for his penalties by returning a punt 59 yards for a touchdown off a trick play, closing the gap to 14-7 with 5:50 left in the half. The entire Bears return unit acted as if Ryan Quigley's punt was headed toward Tarik Cohen to their right when it actually was going to the opposite side of the field to Callahan, who started the play down on one knee just a few feet from the sideline.
The Bears failed to capitalize on the momentum, however. The Vikings increased their lead to 16-7 when Mitchell Trubisky was penalized for intentional grounding in the end zone while under heavy pressure from defensive tackle Linval Joseph.
The Vikings increased their lead to 23-7 on Keenum's 15-yard touchdown pass to Diggs late in the third quarter.
The Bears crossed the 50 on offense for the first time on the first play of the fourth quarter. Prior to that, their deepest penetration on their first eight possessions was to their own 28, 27, 33, 26, 12, 9, 17 and 22.
They eventually reached the Minnesota 6 on their first drive of the fourth quarter, but Trubisky threw four straight incompletions, turning the ball over on downs.
Mike Nugent later boomed a 55-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 23-10 with 8:22 remaining in the fourth quarter.
On their next possession, the Bears reached the Minnesota 2. But they were again held out of the end zone on four straight plays, turning the ball over on downs.
Trubisky completed 20 of 36 passes for 178 yards and a 69.0 passer rating. But Cohen (3 carries for 13 yards) and Jordan Howard (9-9) combined to rush for just 22 yards on 12 carries. Cohen led the Bears with six receptions but for a total of just 14 yards. Dontrelle Inman caught five passes for 94 yards.
Once 3-4, the Bears closed the season by losing seven of their final nine games.
"Like I told those guys, I think there's a good culture in that locker room, good guys," Fox said. "Obviously we need some pieces added. But really for every one of them, everybody in there, there will be better days moving forward."