At whatever juncture the Bears' season went from disappointing to wretched, Sunday in Minneapolis seemed to be the exclamation point.[+] EnlargeElsa/Getty ImagesMatt Forte and the Bears failed to gain a rushing first down against the Vikings.
It's not that we didn't expect it. For once, the Bears were actually predictable.
At least no one can be in denial any longer. No more pretending they're close to a playoff-caliber team if only Nope, Sunday's 36-10 loss to the Vikings, the Bears' sixth defeat in the past seven games, was typical of this season, revealing only if this were the first game you've seen them play this season, and as embarrassing as it sounds, more embarrassing as you peruse the numbers.
The 10-1 Vikings amassed 537 yards in total offense in contrast to 169 for the 4-7 Bears, who had two yards -- TWO -- in the entire second half.
Minnesota had 31 first downs to eight for the Bears, with an advantage in time of possession of 40:18-19:05.
Brett Favre was 32-of-48 for 392 yards and three touchdown passes -- connecting with five receivers on at least five receptions for 50 or more yards -- and looked considerably more agile at 40 than his 26-year-old counterpart.
The Bears turned the ball over three times, all in the first half, and went without a rushing first down the entire afternoon.
Missed opportunities? Somehow the Bears have turned this into something less than the fatal flaw it is, as if having the opportunity in the first place deserves a pat on the head.
Jay Cutler struggled when the Vikings dropped seven into pass coverage. This has been a recurring theme in 2009 - 15 of Cutler's now 20 Int have come against four pass rushers or less.
Passing by Number of Rushers, vs Vikings 4 or Less 5 or More Comp-att 13-17 5-6 Pass yds 96 51 TD-Int 0-2 1-0 Passer rtg 49.8 141.7
The Bears cut short the Vikings' first drive of the game when Hunter Hillenmeyer stripped the ball from Adrian Peterson and Alex Brown recovered on Chicago's 35-yard line? Terrific. A three-and-out and Brad Maynard punt followed.
A 55-yard Maynard punt in the first quarter pinned the Vikings inside their own 5-yard line? Wonderful. Favre marched his team on a 13-play, 96-yard drive that included passes of 14, 11, 16, 27 and 15 yards for the touchdown to Percy Harvin. It included one pass to former Bears receiver Bernard Berrian in which he was so wide open he was alone in the camera frame, and also included back-to-back pass interference and offsides penalties on the Bears.
Trailing 17-7, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler drove his team to the Vikings' 22 in the second quarter? Great. Cutler left the ball well short of Johnny Knox in the end zone and into the waiting arms of Cedric Griffin.
The Bears prevented the Vikings from capitalizing on the next drive? No matter. Cutler threw his second interception on the ensuing drive and Favre guided his team 70 yards on seven plays, throwing his third touchdown pass of the first half as Minnesota increased its lead to 24-7. Included in that drive was a 33-yard pass to Sidney Rice that Favre telegraphed to all of Minneapolis but that still failed to get the attention of Bears corner Zack Bowman, who never turned his head to see it coming.[+] EnlargeBruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireAbout all Lovie Smith could take solace in Sunday was that the sun was going to rise on Monday.
Knox opened the second half with a 78-yard return before stepping out of bounds on the Vikings' 8-yard line? Hooray. In the four plays that follow, Matt Forte tripped on his fullback for no gain, Orlando Pace was called for a false start, Cutler was sacked twice and the Bears settled for a 38-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.
Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner revealed that on the first Cutler sack, on second-and-8 from the Minnesota 8, the quarterback never had a chance because his receiver "runs the wrong route."
"When he gets the opportunity, he's a hell of a player," Turner said of Cutler, "but we have to give him a chance."
And on and on it goes for the Bears. Not missed opportunities but bad football. They tried to get clever and line up defensive tackle Anthony Adams at fullback, and the seven-year veteran was penalized for failing to report in.
"We feel like crap today," said Bears coach Lovie Smith. "No way around it; it's not a feel-good after a loss like this, but the sun normally comes up and the sun will come up tomorrow."
Yes, that is normally the case with the sun. But to disguise a bad season by pretending this was just a bad day, if that's what he was doing, is an insult to Bears fans.
Kind of like Cutler saying "We didn't play up to our standards."
And what standards would those be exactly?
The Bears can make some changes in the final five games. They can shift Chris Williams from the right side to the left side. They can play Jarron Gilbert and Devin Aromashodu and Kevin Shaffer and maybe even Kahlil Bell. But that is not going to be the answer.
Answers imply hope, and the Bears aren't good enough for that yet.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
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