Hub Arkush: Bears gave this one away
The Bears’ 23-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in Minneapolis signaled a new low point for the 2013 season. For the most part, it changes the conversation for the remainder of the season.
In a game in which both clubs did almost everything they could to lose it, the Vikings won.
The Bears have done worse than six penalties for 51 yards, but rarely have they played dumber or less disciplined.
With 14 minutes left, holding a 10-point lead, it seemed like the Bears could start thinking about the Cowboys.
Then they allowed the Vikings to march 89 yards on 13 plays and, at 20-17 with a little more than 7 minutes remaining, it was a game again.
What followed was beyond embarrassing for both teams.
On second-and-11 from his own 19, as the Vikings’ pass rush closed on him, instead of taking the sack, Josh McCown attempted to shovel the ball to Matt Forte and it was deflected to Kyle Long. To his credit, Long caught the ball. Then he fumbled it.
Two plays later, the Vikings had third-and-6 at the Bears’ 14 and Jon Bostic stopped Chase Ford for a 2-yard gain to set up a tying field goal attempt, until Bostic was flagged for a taunting penalty, giving the Vikings new life at the Bears’ 6.
But the Vikings were not going to be outdone, or out-dumbed. Just two plays later, Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel threw a pass that ended up in Khaseem Greene’s grasp at the Bears’ 1-yard line. The Bears rookie returned the pick 49 yards to midfield.
With a little more than 6 minutes left, great field position and a chance to put the game away, the Bears instead went three-and-out and gave the ball back to the Vikings, who drove 82 yards for the tying 30-yard field goal.
One would think, with 480 yards of total offense, the Bears did enough to win.
But those totals are misleading when you realize that 126 yards of it came on two big touchdown tosses to Alshon Jeffery of 80 and 46 yards, and the fact that the Bears were an abysmal 2 for 11 on third down.
This loss also had two new culprits. McCown had gaudy numbers again, going 23 for 36, 355 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. But a closer look will show he was just 4 for 9 on third down and, for the second week in a row, had an interception nullified by penalty.
McCown has been a nice placeholder for Jay Cutler and he’ll make plays, but he doesn’t make enough big plays to win big.
Then there’s the head coach. Although there is much to like about Marc Trestman, his game management becomes more curious with each game.
After the Vikings again refused to allow the Bears to lose, committing a facemask penalty to wipe out a 39-yard Blair Walsh game-winning field goal at 8:04 of the overtime, the Bears took over at their own 47 and drove to a first down at the Vikings’ 32.
With a decision that should cost Trestman sleep well into next year, he elected to send Robbie Gould out to try a 47-yard field goal on second-and-7 after a 3-yard Matt Forte run.
On third down, maybe to allow for bad snaps or false starts, you kick early. But on second down, I don’t care how good your kicker is, you don’t go from 47 when you’ve moved the ball well all day long. Of course, he missed.
What we thought was a slightly better than mediocre team with a shot at the playoffs is now officially a bad team and playoff talk is over.
Although it is true it’s the players who win or lose football games, this Bears’ loss was one where the coach surely pitched in, as well. Collectively, they gave away a game and pushed all of their hopes to next season.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.