CHICAGO -- Welcome to the worst defeat of the seven-game John Fox era.
Good teams find ways to win. The Bears found a way to lose, in grueling fashion.
It's another painful reminder of how much work is left to do in Chicago. Fox's team fought hard for nearly four quarters, but gave the game away with a pair of defensive breakdowns -- another example of how the Bears simply lack the talent to finish the season above .500 clubs.
The defense wasted a brilliant late-game effort by Jay Cutler, who took matters into his own hands to solve the team's red zone dilemma. Cutler displayed the kind of toughness Fox loves when he barreled over Minnesota's Harrison Smith for a 4-yard touchdown run that briefly put the Bears ahead.
Cutler is accustomed to heroics. The Bears have come from behind multiple times this year, and seemed poised to do it again until the defense faltered.
With the next two upcoming games on the road, the Bears squandered a chance to build momentum after their bye week.
What it means: The Bears remain winless in the NFC North. This loss is sure to bruise the Bears' psyche. At 2-5, the Bears have little hope for a playoff berth. It will take an enormous amount of good fortune for Chicago to dig out of this hole. Six or seven wins is still realistic, but it won't be easy.
What were they thinking? How can the Bears allow Minnesota's Stefon Diggs to score a late 40-yard touchdown? With Sunday's starting nickelback, Bryce Callahan, out of the game because of a possible concussion, Sherrick McManis whiffed on a key tackle that sent Diggs off to the races. With no support from the rest of the secondary. Diggs scored with relative ease. The defense has to play smarter in such a critical moment of the game. The offense also wasted way too much time attempting screen passes in the opening 30 minutes. The Vikings clearly spent the week scouting the Bears’ horizontal passing attack. Minnesota defenders pounced on bubble screens and dump-off passes until Cutler started to attack downfield with Alshon Jeffery. That is when the Bears enjoyed the bulk of their success on Sunday.
One reason to get excited: Jeffery continues to be Minnesota’s archnemesis. The Bears' No. 1 wide receiver hauled in a beautiful 21-yard touchdown reception in the back corner of the end zone before halftime. On the play, Jeffery hit the trifecta, displaying all the traits of an elite receiver: route running, separation speed and hands. Jeffery looks more and more like a player worthy of a lucrative contract extension. It will be interesting to see how long the Bears wait to address Jeffery’s soon-to-be expiring deal.
One reason to panic: Another week, another collapse on the Bears’ special-teams coverage units coached by Jeff Rodgers. The Bears now lead the NFL in return touchdowns allowed (three) after Minnesota’s Marcus Sherels took back a first-quarter Pat O’Donnell punt 65 yards for a touchdown. To add insult to injury, Sherels went untouched on his way to the end zone; the latest painful mistake committed by the Bears’ befuddled coverage group. Entering Week 8, the Bears ranked 15th in punt coverage and 31st in kickoff coverage. That needs to be fixed.
Fantasy watch: Jeffery finished the game with 10 receptions for 116 yards and one touchdown. Cutler went 22-of-33 for 211 yards, one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown.
Ouch: Matt Forte walked back to the locker room under his own power at the 8:28 mark of the third quarter. The Bears announced that Forte suffered a knee injury and was questionable to return. It appeared that Forte injured the knee on an 8-yard reception in the third quarter when he landed awkwardly after being tackled by Smith. Meanwhile, it’s been a tough year for Eddie Royal. The injury-plagued veteran receiver suffered a knee injury in the second quarter and did not return. Royal already missed one game this year with an ankle injury.
About time: Cornerback Kyle Fuller became the first member of the Bears’ secondary to force a turnover when he intercepted an errant Teddy Bridgewater pass intended for Diggs. Better late than never, I guess. Fuller has been under intense scrutiny for his play over the first six games. Fuller led the Bears in 2014 with four interceptions, but has been routinely burned for touchdowns this season. Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said on Wednesday that he hasn’t totally ruled out the idea of moving Fuller to safety sometime in the future.