Bears come up empty in season-ending loss

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The Chicago Bears squandered two second half red zone scoring opportunities and chalked up over 100 yards in penalty yardage in a 23-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Bears finished last in the NFC North at 5-11 for the fourth straight season and haven’t posted a winning record since 2012. Meanwhile, the NFC North champion Vikings improved to 13-3 and earned a first-round bye with the victory.

In what could very likely be John Fox’s last game as Chicago head coach, the game followed a familiar script for the Bears. They fell behind early at 14-0 behind an ineffective offense and were hurt by costly penalties on defense, including a personal foul on DL  Eddie Goldman and two pass interference calls on nickel defender Bryce Callahan.

Callahan redeemed himself momentarily when he was part of a Bears punt return ruse that caught Minnesota napping. The Bears return unit set up for rookie Tarik Cohen to field the punt and geared their blocking scheme accordingly. Instead, Callahan took the punt and with the Vikings focused on Cohen, scampered 59 yards for the score to cut the Minnesota lead to 14-7.

The good vibes didn’t last long though as Chicago QB Mitch Trubisky, completing an up-and-down rookie campaign, was called for intentional grounding in the endzone, resulting in a safety and a 16-7 halftime deficit.

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The Vikings added on to their advantage in the second half when resurgent QB Case Keenum connected with WR Stefon Diggs to beat Bears DB Marcus Cooper for a 15 yard touchdown pass to make it 23-7.

The Bears rallied late, but problems scoring in the redzone reared its ugly head again. Trubisky, who completed 20-of-36 passes for 178 yards, engineered a drive to the Minnesota 6 early in the fourth quarter but threw four straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs.  Later, Chicago reached the Vikings 2 but were turned away again.  It was a frustrating ending to a season that had its share of disappointing moments.

With his future clearly in doubt, Fox looked ahead anyway. “Like I told those guys, I think there’s a good culture in that locker room, good guys,” Fox said. “Obviously we need some pieces added. But really for every one of them, everybody in there, there will be better days moving forward.”

Bear Tracks: Chicago kicker Mike Nugent  hit a 55 yd. FG with 8:22 left in the 4th quarter against the Vikings on Sunday. It ties his career high and is the longest kick by a Bears player this season….The Bears running game faced tough sledding against the stingy Minnesota defense. RB’s Jordan Howard (9 carries for 9 yards)and Tarik Cohen combined to rush for just 22 yards on 12 carries….Bears WR Dontrelle Inman caught 5 balls for 94 yards…Bears defensive back Kyle Fuller, a soon to be unrestricted free agent, continued his case for big money in the offseason. Fuller is one of five Bears defensive players since 1994 to have amassed 20+ passes defensed while recording 60+ total tackles in a season…Trubisky the Bears No. 2 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, concluded his rookie season ranking in the top three in Bears rookie annals in pass attempts, completions, yards, and touchdown passes….Howard’s two-year Bears rushing record was finalized Sunday at
2,435 yards. Howard was one of five running backs to rush for 1,000+ yards as a rookie last season and recently became the first Bears RB ever to start his career with back-t0-back 1,000 ya

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rd seasons….Safety Adrian Amos led the Bears in tackles Sunday with 11  stops (solo and assisted). The former Penn State product displayed increased awareness and range in 2017, an encouraging sign for the Chicago deep patrol moving forward…The Bears pick 8th in the 2018 NFL Draft. Chicago and Tampa tied at 5-11 but the Bucs had the slightly softer schedule (.555 Tampa strength of schedule, the Bears .559)…Chicago faces these opponents in addition to the traditional home and away games with NFC North division rivals. Home: Rams, New England, Seattle, Jets, and Tampa. Away: Buffalo, Miami, Arizona, Giants, and San Francisco.

 

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