MINNEAPOLIS – The Bears dropped several passes on Sunday at Mall of America Field, but that was just one of several issues they tried to overcome in a 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
“They hurt,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said, “but there are a lot of things that hurt – the slow start, getting down like that on the road, and when you’re in a hole, you have to make every play count, and we did.”
Quarterback Jay Cutler agreed.
“There were a lot of problems,” he said. “Offensively, I didn’t play well. Interceptions, however they happened, they still happened. We’ve just got to play better.”
After falling behind 14-0 in the first six minutes – the Vikings had an 80-yard scoring drive on their first possession and an interception by Cutler set up the Vikings’ second touchdown – the Bears regrouped and pulled within 14-7.
A second interception by the Vikings – who had intercepted just seven passes in their first 12 games – gave Minnesota a 21-7 lead.
A touchdown with 1:48 remaining got the Bears within seven, but the comeback fell short as the Vikings ended a six-game losing streak to the Bears.
“We’re not finishing plays, I had a costly drop,” said Bears receiver Devin Hester. “I could have probably had a chance to score and I dropped it.”
Hester’s misplay came on a third-and-6 from the Vikings’ 23 with the Bears trailing 21-7 with 4:37 left. An incompletion on fourth down – intended for Brandon Marshall – gave the ball to the Vikings.
“I have to do better, I let my teammates down today,” Marshall said. “I have to make those plays. … That fourth down, Jay (Cutler) put it on me, right on the money and I dropped it. We are in this situation, we have to step-up. Backs against the wall now, we have to win out.”
Another issue for the Bears was that before their final possession, their offense was primarily Marshall. Marshall caught nine of the Bears’ first 22 completions. On their final scoring drive, four different Bears caught passes before Marshall caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jason Campbell, who replaced an injured Cutler in the fourth quarter.
Marshall finished with 10 receptions – he was targeted 19 times – for 160 yards to break the Bears’ single-season record for receptions (he has 101). Marshall also had a 23-yard reception wiped out by a penalty.
Falling behind by 14 points early meant the Bears couldn’t rely on their running game. Matt Forte rushed for 85 yards, but 36 of those yards came on one run in the third quarter. The Bears finished with 118 yards rushing.
The Bears had 10 penalties for 80 yards and were just 5 for 14 on third down before their final drive.
Hester said the Bears’ offense showed hints that it can be more productive.
“We showed a glimpse of it. We’re capable of doing it,” said Hester. “Like I said, we just have got to finish the plays that we’re allowed to make.”