Today may mark the beginning of the end for Lovie Smith as the Bears’ head coach. The Bears entered Week 10 against the Houston Texans with 7-1 record sitting alone at the top of the NFC North Division. Since then, the Bears have gone 1-4 and now sit at 8-5 on the season with their playoff chances fading. That is why today’s game against the Minnesota Vikings was crucial for the Bears. With a victory, the Bears would have remained tied with the Green Bay Packers for the lead in the NFC North Division as well as sitting as the top Wild Card seed in the NFC conference.
With their 21 to 14 loss against the Vikings on Sunday, not only are the Bears no longer tied with the Packers for the division lead; but, the Seattle Seahawks have the opportunity to leapfrog the Bears for top Wild Card spot with a victory against the Arizona Cardinals. Meaning the Bears would be the second wild card team in the NFC as they prepare for their game against the Green Bay Packers next week. On top of the Bears’ woes, the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins won, pushing their records to 7-6. The Bears hold the tie-breaker over the cowboys, and they are going to need all the help they can get for these final three games of the regular season.
I wrote before the game that Adrian Peterson would look to take advantage of the Bears’ injured defense. That is indeed what Peterson did. In the first quarter alone, Peterson rushed for a 104 yards while scoring two touchdowns. The 104 rushing yards by Peterson in the first quarter was a franchise record for the Vikings for most rushing yards in one quarter. Peterson finished the game with 154 yards on 31 carries to go along with the two first quarter touchdowns. The Vikings were not going to let quarterback Christian Ponder throw the game away for them as the quarterback had only 91 passing yards while completing 11 of 19 passes.
Chicago Bears‘ quarterback Jay Cutler struggled in Sunday’s loss. Cutler completed 22 of 44 passes for a total of 260 passing yards to go along with two interceptions and one touchdown pass. Cutler’s first interception was the result of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery slipping on what was a timing route. The second interception, which was returned for a touchdown, was on Cutler as the quarterback overthrew wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Cutler was the recipient of an illegal blow to head by Vikings’ defensive end Everson Griffen late in the fourth quarter. Cutler suffered a neck injury as a result of the play and Jason Campbell finished the game as the team’s quarterback.
Cutler was not to blame for all of the Bears’ offensive struggles on Sunday. The Bears’ offensive line struggled mightily against the Vikings as holding penalties and failures to attend to their blocking assignments constantly put the Bears’ offense in a difficult position. Bears’ offensive coordinator Mike Tice abandoned the running game once again on Sunday as Matt Forte only had 13 carries on the game. Forte collected 85 yards on those 13 carries. The Bears showed a commitment to the running game in their victory against the Vikings two weeks ago, one would have thought that the same commitment would have been pushed in today’s game against the Vikings. Wide Receivers Devin Hester and Alshon Jeffery both had drops that cost the the Bears a touchdown.
The Bears simply looked defeated in every aspect of the game against the Vikings. The Bears failed to show a sense of urgency on offense, and a conservative play call; in the end, that is a reflection on the Bears’ coaching staff. Lovie Smith will probably put the loss on him and say that he did not have the team ready for today’s game against the Vikings. There is no question that the Bears were not ready for the Vikings on Sunday. The Vikings offensive game plan revolves around Peterson, and the Bears were single-handedly defeated by the Vikings’ running back on Sunday. The Bears face the Green Bay Packers next week, and there is a strong chance that the Lovie Smith will have a similar excuse after next Sunday’s game.