You can blame Devin Hester. You can blame Jay Cutler. You can blame Kellen Davis. You can blame Chris Conte. Heck you can even blame Lovie Smith and the Chicago Bears coaching staff for the Bears loss to the Vikings on Sunday.
But the Bears were simply plagued by a 14-0 deficit early in the first quarter and failed to battle back.
The 21-14 loss to the Vikings puts the Bears a full game behind the Packers, who improved to 9-5 on Sunday night after rallying back to beat the Lions, 27-20.
The Bears converted just seven of 17 third downs. But they averaged six yards per play and 6.5 yards per rush and consistently put together long drives. They just couldn’t score points.
As well as Vikings RB Adrian Peterson played in the first quarter, the Bears contained him the rest of the afternoon.
Take away the 51-yard run by Peterson on the first play from scrimmage, he had 30 runs for 103 yards, an average of 3.4 yards per carry.
You can say they missed Brian Urlacher all you want, but the Bears’ defense did a fine job at containing Peterson after that long run.
They were facing a quick 7-0 deficit and then things got even worse for the Bears. Jay Cutler threw a pass for rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery slipped on the play and Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson was able to pick Cutler off and take it back 44 yards.
That set up the Vikings first-and-goal on the Bears five-yard line. Three Adrian Peterson runs later it was 14-0.
After that the Bears made big stops on defense. They allowed only 77 total yards passing by Christian Ponder as the Vikings converted just six of 14 third downs.
At the half, things were certainly looking up for the Bears and Jay Cutler, who had just found Alshon Jeffery in the endzone for a touchdown minutes prior.
It certainly looked like the Bears were going to rally back, but they just couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities.
Tight end Kellen Davis once again dropped a number of catchable balls, while Devin Hester and Alshon Jeffery each dropped what appeared to be touchdowns at the time.
One play that has been overlooked happened right after Jeffery scored with about 1:52 left in the first half. Vikings kick returner A.J. Jefferson returned the kickoff 20 yards, but fumbled it and it looked for a brief moment that the Bears were going to be able to recover it. Luckily Christian Ballard was there for the recovery for the Vikings.
The Bears certainly had momentum at that point and if they could have recovered Jefferson’s fumble it could had been a closer game going into the half.
An important drive in the third quarter happened right after Jay Cutler tossed a pick six to Vikings safety Harrison Smith. Down 21-7, the Bears started to put a drive together.
With 3:21 left in the third, Bears running back Matt Forte broke off a 36-yard run and Minnesota committed a 15 yard penalty on the same play. The Bears were set up at the Vikings 34-yard line.
A false start and a holding penalty by J’Marcus Webb put the Bears back to the Vikings 49-yard line.
Cutler found Kellen Davis for a 10-yard gain, but two straight incompletions forced the Bears to punt from the Vikings 39-yard line.
That was a key drive for the Bears as again they failed to put points up on the board.
The Vikings put together a drive that took six minutes off the clock and then the Bears had an impressive drive that started on their own five-yard line.
They drove all the way down the Vikings 23-yard line, but three straight incompletions really ended the comeback.
The Bears had many chances to take control of this game, but just failed to do so.
Jay Cutler was banged up in the game as he left on the Bears’ final drive with a neck injury. He is said to be day-to-day. He seems to be on track to be under center for Sunday’s big matchup against the first place Packers.
Posting a 7-1 record and now sitting at 8-5 things certainly don’t look great for the Bears. They currently hold the second wildcard spot in the NFC.
The best teams in the league win games in December.
The window of opportunity for this defense to help win a Super Bowl is certainly closing. No one is getting younger on that side of the ball and Brian Urlacher could easily have played his last game in a Bears uniform if he demands a big contract at season’s end.
Lovie Smith isn’t under contract next season and if the season’s collapses once again similar to 2011 you can bet he won’t be brought back in 2013.
The season isn’t over yet for the Bears. Losing to the Packers this Sunday won’t end the season considering the Bears could sneak into the playoffs with 10 wins.
But winning the division would be huge and would give this team tons of confidence heading into the playoffs.
These past two weeks, each losses have certainly been letdowns, but this team will eventually make those big plays. This could be the week and it would be huge.
The 2012 season is still the Bears to take control of. Don’t count the Bears out just yet.