Blair Walsh kicked a 34-yard field goal with 1:55 left in overtime to give the Minnesota Vikings a come-from-behind 23-20 over the reeling Chicago Bears Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The heartbreaking loss overshadowed the individual brilliance of emerging second-year wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who snagged 12 balls for a franchise-record 249-yards.
The Vikings notched just their third win (3-8-1) of the season, while the Bears dropped their second straight (6-6) and may have witnessed their NFC playoff chances disappear as their downward spiral continues after beginning 3-0.
Both teams had chances to win it in overtime. Walsh appeared to hit the game-winner from 39-yards out earlier in the extra period, but a personal foul penalty for a facemask on Vikings Rhett Ellison pushed them back 15 yards.Two plays later, the strong-legged Walsh missed from 56.
The Bears then used the running of Matt Forte to march down to the Vikings 30, when, on second down, Bears head coach Marc Trestman elected to try a 47-yard field goal. Robbie Gould’s kick sailed just right of the goal post, setting up Minnesota’s winning drive.
Gould’s miss was bittersweet on a day that began with his wife giving birth. He was emotional aferwards. “There were a lot of lessons in one day,” Gould said. “It was one of greatest days of my life…sorry I couldn’t do it for my teammates.” Gould also missed on what would have been an NFL record 66-yard attempt on the game’s final play of regulation. He connected on a pair of short field goals (30,40) in the first half to provide the Bears scoring.
Asked about kicking it on second down, Trestman, in a recent trend of making questionable game-management calls, defended his decision. 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. We’ve got one of the best field-goal kickers in the league and unfortunately we didn’t get it done. Robbie didn’t lose the game for us; there’s a lot of different ways to lose the game. … I just feel bad for him that we didn’t get it done.”
After a sluggish first half that saw Minnesota cling to a 7-6 lead, the Bears used a pair of Josh McCown to Jeffery touchdown throws (80-yards & 46-yards) to jump in front 20-10 entering the fourth quarter. Jeffery, the second-year pro from South Carolina who continues to improve in leaps and bounds each week, made a spectacular catch over Vikings defender Chris Cook on the 46-yard hookup, using his strong hands and long frame to clutch the ball as he was tightroping the near sideline.
McCown finished 23-of -36 for 355 yards and the two scores, but struggled late as the Vikings amped up the pressure.
Forte gained 120-yards on 23 carries, a 5.2 average with a long gain of 41. However, the Bears inability to convert several short-yardage situations in the second half, especially late in the fourth quarter, dampened the enthusiasm for a ground attack that simply has trouble getting push in key situations. Said Forte of the struggles. “Any run play if you give up penetration, it’s tough to gain those yards back.”
Defensively, the Bears started strong, with three sacks of Minnesota starting QB Christian Ponder in the first quarter but faded late. Adrian Peterson ran over, threw, and around Bears defenders for 211-yards on 35 attempts, the latest in a long line of runners to make a once-proud defensive unit look silly with missed tackles.
After Ponder exited just before half, veteran Matt Cassel steadied the Vikings ship. He completed 20-of-33 passes for 243-yards and a touchdown pass to former Packer Greg Jennings.
With four games left and already two games back to the 7-5 Detroit Lions in the NFC North , playoff talk appears bleak. Trestman tried to maintain a stiff upper lip. We’ve got a long season left, we’ve got four games to go. There’s clearly evidence that the team can move forward and I’m always going to feel that way.”
Bear Tracks: DT Jay Ratliff saw his first action of the season. He was unofficially credited with one assist in limited snaps…Rookie Khaseem Greene intecepted his first pass and returned it to midfield, preventing a Vikings scoring opportunity in the foruth quarter…Minnesota outgained the Bears 496-yards to 480.