Bears coach Matt Nagy handed play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor for Monday night's game against the Vikings, hoping to spark a stagnant offense. But the unit remained stalled in a frustrating 19-13 loss at Soldier Field.
The offense failed to score a touchdown for the second time this season, mustered a season-low 149 yards against a Vikings defense that had allowed an average of 412.9 yards per game and converted only 2-of-11 third-down plays (18 percent).
The Bears did receive a spark, but it came from Cordarrelle Patterson, who returned the second-half kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown, turning a 7-6 deficit into a 13-7 lead.
Those were the final points of the game for the Bears, however. Their offense followed with four straight three-and-outs, managing just three yards on 12 plays.
The Bears were outgained 90-to-minus-two in the third quarter and generated only 32 yards and two first downs in the second half. Their best chance to score came when they reached the Vikings' 31 with 2:55 remaining in the game. But on third-and-five, Allen Robinson was dropped for a four-yard loss on a reception and Nick Foles barely overthrew Anthony Miller deep on fourth-and-9 from the 35.
Foles was later carted off the field with what Nagy later described as a hip or leg injury after being slammed to the turf while throwing an incomplete pass with :37 left in the game. Foles was replaced by Tyler Bray after connecting on 15 of 26 passes for 106 yards with one interception and a 51.1 passer rating.
The Bears defense held Dalvin Cook to a quiet 96 yards on 30 carries, but the NFL's No. 1-ranked third-down defense allowed the Vikings to convert 8-of-15 third-down opportunities, many to wide open receivers. Kirk Cousins completed 25 of 36 passes for 292 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a 100.7 passer rating in winning his first career Monday night game after nine losses.
With their fourth straight loss, the Bears dropped to 5-5 heading into their bye week. The Vikings,meanwhile, improved to 4-5 with their third consecutive win, all over division opponents.
The Bears defense generated two takeaways in the first half. The first one came on the game's opening possession as Danny Trevathan forced a Kyle Rudolph fumble on a 12-yard reception that was recovered by Tashaun Gipson at the Bears' 27. It was the first lost fumble of Rudolph's 10-year NFL career in his 137th game.
But the Bears turned the ball back over two plays later as Foles' pass over the middle deflected off Miller's hands and was intercepted by safety Harrison Smith. The throw was slightly high and behind Miller.
The Vikings converted the takeaway into Adam Thielen's 17-yard touchdown reception from Cousins, taking a 7-0 lead with 6:29 left in the first quarter. Thielen made a one-handed catch while fending off tight coverage by Buster Skrine.
Cairo Santos' 23-yard field goal drew the Bears to within 7-3 late in the first quarter. Foles completed 6 of 9 passes for 55 yards on the drive, including a pinpoint 24-yarder to Robinson. But on third-and-goal from the 5, Foles failed to see Darnell Mooney break open over the middle and instead threw an incomplete pass into traffic in the right corner of the end zone.
The Bears defense produced its second takeaway as Khalil Mack intercepted a Cousins pass that deflected off Thielen, returning it 33 yards to the Vikings' 45. Foles completed a 21-yard pass to Miller, but the Bears failed to gain another yard on three plays. Santos followed with a 42-yard field goal, closing the gap to 7-6 with :49 left in the half.
In the first half, Cousins completed 14 of 16 passes for 132 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a 95.8 passer rating.
Patterson provided a much-needed jolt by returning the second-half kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bears a 13-7 lead. In the process, he tied an NFL record with eight career kickoff return TDs and set a Bears mark for longest kickoff return in franchise history, eclipsing Gale Sayers' 103-yard TD versus the Steelers on Sept. 17, 1967.
Patterson's TD swung the momentum to the Bears, but they gave it right back as Dwayne Harris muffed a punt and the Vikings recovered at the Chicago 20. But the defense held, forcing Minnesota to settle for Dan Bailey's 37-yard field goal, closing the gap to 13-10 with 10:50 left in the third quarter.
After the Bears went three-and-out, Bailey's 43-yard field goal tied the score 13-13 with 1:52 remaining in the third period. The kick was set up by Cousins' 54-yard completion to a wide open Justin Jefferson on third-and-11.
The Vikings took a 19-13 lead on Cousins' 6-yard TD pass to Thielen with 10:06 left in the fourth quarter. Minnesota botched the extra-point attempt with a bad snap, but the Bears were unable to take advantage of the miscue.