Bears Vs.Vikings: Takeaways from Chicago's 23-20 Loss to Minnesota
Robbie Gould had a chance to seal the victory for the Bears in overtime but missed a 47-yard field goal on second down with 4:12 left in overtime. Adrian Peterson helped march the ball down the field for the Vikings, which allowed Blair Walsh to hit the game-winning field goal from 34 yards out.
A win by the Lions on Thanksgiving Day did not do the Bears any favors in the NFC North, and considering how strong the Wild Card chase is in the NFC, they will face an uphill battle in their remaining four games.
Here are my five takeaways from the Bears' 23-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Alshon Jeffery Proved He's Becoming One of the League's Best Wide Receivers
If there were any doubts that Alshon Jeffery was on his way to becoming a top-tier wide receiver in the NFL, he was able to silence them on Sunday afternoon.
Jeffery broke his own record for most receiving yards in a game for the Bears by hauling in 12 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
The highlight of his day came on a 46-yard touchdown grab where he leaped over the Vikings' Chris Cook and was able to secure the ball out in front of him, all while keeping his feet in bounds and maintaining possession.
Jeffery's emergence alongside Brandon Marshall has given the Bears one of the league's best wide receiver tandems, not only this season, but hopefully for years to come.
Defense Struggled Again in the Running Game
A week after giving up 258 yards rushing to the St. Louis Rams and 174 yards the week prior to the Baltimore Ravens, the Bears anemic run defense allowed Adrian Peterson to gain 211 yards on the ground.
Peterson ran it just 11 times in the first half for 77 yards but turned it on in the second half, gaining 134 yards on 24 carries.
The Bears were expecting to be a little bit better up the middle of the defense with the return of Stephen Paea and the debut of Jeremiah Ratliff, but both were not enough to slow down the powerful Peterson.
Injuries have plagued Chicago's defense all season long, but that should not be an excuse for a team that has prided itself on its defense.
The defense will need to recover quickly this week with another talented running back in DeMarco Murray coming to town on December 9 for Monday Night Football.
Offense Struggled on Third Down and Short-Yardage Situations
A week after going 6-for-10 on third down, the Bears struggled again Sunday against the Vikings, going just 2-for-11.
At times the offense looked to be flowing well, while at other points it struggled running the ball on first down and put themselves in a bad position later on in the series. The unit has lacked consistency in recent weeks despite the fact that Josh McCown has put up very good numbers in Marc Trestman's offense.
A week after failing repeatedly to convert on second, third and short-to-go, the offense again lacked any push up front and struggled to convert when the team needed to most.
For all of the praise that Trestman and McCown have gotten during Jay Cutler's time out, they have struggled mightily in key areas, and if they have any hope of making it to the playoffs, that needs to improve as soon as possible.
Julius Peppers Looked Like His Old Self
One of the most frustrating players on Chicago's defense this season has been Julius Peppers. He has had games where he was all over the field and the stat sheet (against Green Bay) and games where he was virtually non-existent (against New Orleans), but he played one of his most consistent games of the season on Sunday.
Peppers finished the day with five solo tackles, 2.5 sacks, one pass deflection and two tackles for loss. The defense clearly plays better when he is playing well and, despite the outcome, the defense did look to take a step, albeit small, in the right direction.
It will be an interesting offseason for Peppers, considering his salary alone is set to have over an $18 million cap hit, according to Spotrac.com.
If the Bears see more of the Peppers they saw on Sunday for the rest of season, it may be hard to let that sort of production walk, considering how poorly the defensive line has played this season.
Marc Trestman Made Another Questionable Late-Game Call
With 4:12 remaining in overtime, Marc Trestman elected to let kicker Robbie Gould attempt a 47-yard field goal instead of trying to move a bit closer to the goalposts.
Gould missed the kick and the Bears eventually allowed the Vikings to march down the field and win the game on a Blair Walsh field goal.
Trestman was asked about the decision to kick it on second down and told Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune,
We were definitely in range and I didn't want to risk a possible penalty that would set us back, similar to what happened on the other side, or a fumble of some kind ... something 'unique.' I felt we were clearly within range and could get the game over with at that time.
While Trestman does have a valid point, it also seems foolish to limit yourself to what is not an easy field goal attempt while you still have at least one down to work with.
Trestman has made some other questionable coaching decisions, including leaving Jay Cutler in against the Detroit Lions while he was clearly ailing and not using his timeouts against the Baltimore Ravens.
He has proven that he has his own way of going about football games, and it does not look like that is going to change anytime soon.