MINNEAPOLIS - When the Bears recorded an impressive victory Thanksgiving night in Green Bay, they hoped it would catapult them on to bigger and bigger things down the stretch.
Instead, they're now 0-3 since that magical night at Lambeau Field, bottoming out with a lackluster 38-17 loss to the Vikings Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
In falling a season-low four games under .500, the Bears (5-9) continued to commit the same mistakes that have plagued them much of the year.
Offensively, they allowed a season-high five sacks-including one on each of their first three possessions-turned the ball over twice and committed costly penalties.
"We played awful," said left guard Matt Slauson. "We didn't execute. We've got to block. We've got to catch. We've got to run. We've got to throw. We can't have penalties. It was just a bad day."
Defensively, the Bears permitted the Vikings to score touchdowns on all four of their red-zone possessions and convert 8-of-12 third-down opportunities.
They limited Adrian Peterson to 63 yards on 18 carries, but made Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater look like Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton in his prime. The second-year pro set career highs with four touchdown passes and a 154.4 passer rating and also ran for a fifth TD.
"It is disappointing to say the least," said linebacker Shea McClellin. "We didn't get it done today."
In a game they never led, the Bears allowed the Vikings to score three touchdowns and one field goal on their first five possessions to take a commanding 24-7 lead early in the third quarter.
The miscues started early as the Bears got off to yet another slow start. After Deonte Thompson returned the opening kickoff 49 yards, Kyle Long sprinted around left end for 35 yards to the Minnesota 15. But a holding penalty on center Hroniss Grasu nullified the big gain. Jay Cutler was sacked two plays later and the Bears were forced to punt without picking up a first down.
"It was unfortunate," Forte said. "I was thinking, 'What a way to start the game with an explosive run.' With the kickoff return, we had a great start. But the penalty was a momentum killer."
The Vikings followed by taking a 7-0 lead as Bridgewater capped a 13-play, 93-yard drive with a 15-yard TD pass to rookie Stefon Diggs.
It was the fifth time in the last seven games that the Bears have permitted a touchdown on their opponent's first possession. In the first quarter of their last two contests, they've been outgained 132-18 by the Redskins and 134-10 by the Vikings.
The Bears closed to within 10-7 as Cutler rifled a 10-yard TD pass to Alshon Jeffery, who later missed part of the second half with a hamstring injury before returning to the game.
Trailing 17-7, the Bears opened the second half by recovering a surprise onside kick at their own 47. But three plays later-in a repeat from last Sunday against the Redskins-right tackle Kyle Long was beat for a strip/sack as Brian Robison forced and recovered a Cutler fumble.
"We had the surprise onside kick there and we squandered that one," Cutler said. "If we drive down there and we put up a score, we're right back in the ballgame. So it's unfortunate."
"Even if you block a guy for 70 plays and he gets a strip/sack fumble after an onside kick after the half, it creates a 14-point swing for the other team," Long said. "That's not the best position to put your defense in."
The Vikings converted the turnover into a 24-7 lead as Bridgewater hit a wide open Diggs over the middle for 33-yard TD with 10:40 left in the third quarter. Diggs dragged defensive back Alan Ball the final eight yards into the end zone.
"We just didn't execute," said coach John Fox. "Obviously, [when] you have one of their leading receivers kind of going unnoticed across the whole field, it's not by design. There were a number of those types of plays today where we didn't execute very well defensively."
The Bears twice cut the deficit to 14 points as Robbie Gould's 51-yard field goal made it 24-10 and Cutler's 4-yard TD pass to Forte closed it to 31-17. But they failed to get any closer. Bridgewater produced the final points with a 4-yard TD pass to fullback Zach Line with 1:50 remaining.
Sunday's loss officially eliminated the Bears from playoff contention and assured them of having back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2003-04. They now have lost nine consecutive December games dating back to 2013.
"They kicked our [butt] today," Jeffery said. "Hats off to them; they made more plays than us."