3 Takeaways from Bears' Week 18 Loss

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 10, 2022

3 Takeaways from Bears' Week 18 Loss

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    A tough 2021 season for the Chicago Bears came to a conclusion on Sunday afternoon, and an offseason that could be filled with change for the franchise is now on the horizon.

    The Bears dropped their finale to the Minnesota Vikings, taking a 31-17 loss at U.S. Bank Stadium to finish the season at 6-11. It was their first sub-.500 campaign since they went 5-11 in 2017, which was also John Fox's final year as head coach.

    On Sunday, Chicago scored the first 14 points of the game and led by 11 at halftime. However, it couldn't close the game out against its NFC North rivals, as the Vikings used a 21-point fourth quarter to complete a comeback victory.

    Here are three takeaways from the Bears' Week 18 loss.

Mooney Caps Breakout Season in Impressive Way

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Although the Bears' offense struggled at times throughout the season, one of the positives from the year was the play of wide receiver Darnell Mooney.

    The 24-year-old broke out in his second NFL season, and he capped it off in impressive fashion against the Vikings.

    The Tulane product had 12 catches for 126 yards, both of which were career highs, to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He had 81 catches for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns, as he led Chicago in all three of those stats for the year.

    A fifth-round selection of the Bears in the 2020 NFL draft, Mooney solidified his spot in the team's receiving corps and should be a key member of the offense moving forward.

    "At the beginning of the season, I wanted to be dominant," he said, per Larry Mayer of the team's official site. "[I was] not as dominant as I wanted to be. A lot of the guys congratulated me. A lot of receivers tell me it's a very big thing, so I take credit for it. But I definitely have more to show than just 1,000 yards."

    And if that's the case, Mooney could help the Bears turn things around in the near future.

The Secondary Couldn't Prevent Big Plays in Second Half

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    The Bears' defense got off to a strong start on Sunday, as the Vikings had only three points in the first half. And those came on a 39-yard field goal by Greg Joseph as time expired in the second quarter.

    So Chicago seemed to be in a good spot to end the season with a win.

    In the second half, however, the Bears' defense broke down and allowed some big plays. The secondary could no longer contain the Vikings' playmakers, and that allowed Minnesota to get back in the game and eventually take control of it.

    Kirk Cousins threw three touchdown passes in the second half, and each of them was a big play. Ihmir Smith-Marsette had a 44-yard TD catch in the third quarter, then Justin Jefferson tied the game at 17 with a 45-yard TD grab in the fourth. The Vikings then went ahead for good on K.J. Osborn's 21-yard touchdown reception.

    For much of the season, the Bears' pass defense was a strength. It ranked third in the NFL with 191.6 passing yards allowed per game, behind only the Buffalo Bills (163) and New England Patriots (187.1).

    However, the Chicago secondary can struggle with giving up big plays at times, as it did Sunday. So, that's an area in which it could get better in 2022.

The Nagy Era Has Likely Come to an End

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    In his first season as Bears head coach in 2018, Matt Nagy led the team to a 12-4 record and the NFC North title. However, Chicago hasn't reached that level again since then, and it seems likely that he and the franchise could soon be moving in different directions.

    After going 8-8 each of the previous two seasons, Chicago went 6-11 during the 2021 campaign. It got off to a 3-2 start but then lost eight of its next nine games to fall out of playoff contention. And it should mean that Nagy will leave without winning a postseason game, as the Bears are 0-2 in the playoffs over the past four years.

    Over the weekend, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that Chicago had already made the decision to part ways with the 43-year-old. So it's unlikely that a Week 18 win could have helped him keep his job. But that didn't happen anyway, with the Bears blowing an early lead in their final loss.

    Chicago is likely to soon begin a search for its next head coach, and that decision could be crucial in determining the trajectory of the franchise. If the Bears don't make the right hire this time, there could be more tough years ahead in the near future.