By Dan Durkin
(CBS) If there’s such a thing as earning a loss, the Bears did just that.
Leading 20-17 with 1:55 seconds left, the Bears defense allowed the Vikings to convert on a 4th-and-11 from their own 8-yards line, which led to a game-tying field goal and a seemingly never-ending overtime. Mercifully, on his second attempt, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh brought it to an end with a 34-yard field goal, potentially booting the Bears from the playoff race in the process.
Coming in to today’s game, the Vikings defense had given up no less than 23 points in a game. The Bears offense mustered up a meager 20 points against a defense that had given up a league-high 37 touchdowns.
Alshon Jeffery’s record setting 12 reception, 249 receiving yards, and two touchdown performance was for naught. Strangely, the Bears are now 0-5 in games where Jeffery has more than 100+ receiving yards.
- Bernstein: Dumb Loss Spoils Jeffery’s Day
- Hoge: Trestman Trusts Gould Instead Of Risking More Mistakes
- Vikings Top Bears 23-20 In Overtime
- Photo Gallery
With the Vikings down to their seventh cornerback, the Bears schemed ways to get Jeffery the ball out of the slot and on switched releases. Jeffery’s second touchdown catch of the third quarter was a truly remarkable individual effort and a signature play in his brilliant sophomore campaign. With the ball hung up, Jeffery positioned his body and sprung up to high point the ball, completing the process of the catch.
Although his final statistics look impressive, quarterback Josh McCown (23/36, 355 yards, 2 touchdowns, 114.9 passer efficiency rating) had a shaky performance. Twice McCown threw into covered underneath zones, was nearly intercepted on one and was intercepted on another, which was wiped out on a defensive offsides.
Additionally, McCown made an indefensible decision inside the Bears 20-yard line late in the fourth quarter. Up 20-17, McCown was forced to climb the pocket and after a linebacker broke off of Matt Forte (23 carries, 120 yards, 2 receptions, 31 yards), he attempted a shovel pass that was deflected then caught by Kyle Long who eventually fumbled the ball which was recovered by Minnesota. There’s a difference between trying to make a play and being careless, and this decision clearly lands on the latter.
For as prolific as the Bears passing game has been this season, their inability to convert in short-yardage (0-for-3 on 3rd-and-1) and goal line situations makes it hard to take this team seriously. Twelve games into the season, they’ve yet to identify a play or a player on their offensive line that they trust to get a yard behind, which is simply inexcusable.
Through twelve games, the Bears defense has given up more rushing yards (1,843) than they did over the entire 2012 season (1,627).
On Sunday, the Vikings averaged more yards per rushing attempt (6.2) than they did per passing attempt (6.1). It’s impossible to expect to win football games when you don’t force an opponent to make plays in the passing game.
Every week, it’s the same issues: players out of their gap, poor pursuit angles, and missed tackles at the second and third-level. Adrian Peterson was the latest running back to have his chance to use the Bears defense as a doormat, going for 211 yards on 35 carries (6 yards per carry average).
Unlike the Packers game, Shea McClellin knocking out a starting quarterback may have benefited the opponent. Christian Ponder (3/8, 40 yards, 54.2 passer efficiency rating) was under duress early, rattled and wildly inaccurate. After suffering a reported neck injury, Ponder was replaced in the second half by Matt Cassel (20/33, 243 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 80.7 passer efficiency rating), who invigorated the Vikings passing game.
Prior to Cassel entering the game, wide receiver Greg Jennings had one reception for two yards. Once Cassel got under center, Jennings ended up with seven receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown. Cassel was able to thread the ball into the voids between the linebackers and safeties.
One bright spot on defense was the performance of defensive end Julius Peppers (8 tackles, 3 quarterback hits, 2.5 sacks, 2 tackles for loss). The Bears saw a vulnerability in the interior of the Vikings defensive line and used Peppers on stunts and from the three-technique to exploit it.
Getting Stephen Paea back and Jay Ratliff into the mix benefited the Bears defensive front. The defensive line rotation kept players fresh and they effectively collapsed the pocket and disrupted passing lanes with numerous batted passes.
Once again, the Bears rookie linebackers inexperience cost the defense. Physical errors – not being able to shed blockers – and mental errors – being in the wrong gap – seem to happen every week for Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene.
This week, Bostic made a rookie mistake on a taunting penalty. To that point in the game, Bostic hadn’t made a single play of significance, yet he let his ego take over, hovering above an opponent on a third-down tackle. Sorry, Jon, but you’re paid to make tackles like that. Luckily, Greene bailed Bostic out two plays later, intercepting a deflected pass and returning it 49 yards. While they’re gaining invaluable experience, these two remain a liability.
The Bears defense has become the opponent for teams to get their offense right. The Vikings had their two longest touchdown drives – 90 and 89 yards – of the season against the Bears. Until they stand up in a crucial moment, every week will be an adventure.
Given how consistent he’s been for his tenure in Chicago, it’s hard to pin this game purely on the right foot of Robbie Gould. This was a team loss, but a 47-yard field goal in perfect conditions was well within Gould’s range.
Somehow, the Vikings chose to kick the ball off to Devin Hester after Walsh tied the game at 20-20 and Hester returned it to midfield. Hester was close to breaking it for six, but this was a great effort to give the team a chance for a desperation field goal at the end of regulation.
Head coach Marc Trestman’s decision to attempt a field goal on 2nd-and-7 in overtime will be scrutinized. Clearly, Trestman’s rationale was he didn’t want to risk a penalty or even worse, a fumble, that would prevent the Bears from even being in a position to win the game.
More than anything, Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer need to take some heat for the team’s short-yardage struggles. The Bears made a concerted effort to improve the offensive line in free agency and the draft, yet they can’t find a way to get one yard to keep drives alive.
Making the playoffs via a Wild Card berth is virtually gone. The Bears no longer control their playoff destiny and they have only themselves to blame.
The Bears host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football, my Know Your Opponent blog will be posted this Wednesday.
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