September 20, 2014

Vikings 21, Bears 14: Tough Turf, Bad Days

The Minnesota Vikings are rotten guys, the type who invite you over for a friendly game of football and then ruin everything by doing things like intercepting passes, scoring touchdowns, and telling all the girls that you and your brother were once kicked out of the Indian Guides.

Some might say the Vikings were only doing what they were paid to do in their 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, but hiding behind the truth doesn’t make it more kind nor palatable.

The Bears made a lot of mistakes in this one, beginning with their decision to show up.  Though, it could be posited that Chicago didn’t even do that, or at least not on time, as the Bears allowed Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to break free on a 51-yard run on the game’s very first play from scrimmage.   It was as if the Bears never seriously considered that Minnesota might try to utilize Peterson, who leads the league in rushing.  You know, Adrian Peterson, big guy, #28, runs a lot, stomps things.

A few moments after that run, Peterson scored from one yard out and it was 7-0 Vikings and Bears fans began flipping around the dial to see if the guy at the liquor store really was telling the truth about that “Hazel” marathon.

By the time we flipped back, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had thrown an interception, Peterson had another touchdown, the Bears trailed 14-0, and it felt like the time you bumped into your uncle at the Walgreen’s neither of you usually goes to and you saw that he had pantyhose in his basket and you couldn’t hide being upset that he got the last pair.

Peterson had 100 yards rushing by the time the first quarter ended, en route to a 154-yard effort, making the Bears look like a team that didn’t have Brian Urlacher and Tim Jennings because they didn’t have Brian Urlacher and Tim Jennings.  That’s no excuse, though, and the Bears actually held Peterson to just 103 yards on his final 30 carries which is….ok, that’s still too many.

The Bears finally got on the board just before halftime when Cutler threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery who had missed six of the previous seven games due to injuries and Chicago trailed, 14-7, at the break but it felt far worse.  It felt like we were playing Green Bay.

Cutler threw his second interception of the day late in the third quarter and this one Vikings safety Harrison Smith returned 55 yards for a touchdown and then reminded everyone that he went to Notre Dame and then everyone reminded him that the Fighting Irish are doing better without him and, daggummitt, that shut him up!

The score remained 21-7 until the final moments when Jason Campbell hit Brandon Marshall for a 16-yard score to make it 21-14 which looks better in the box score, but box scores are for weenies.

Campbell was playing because Cutler hurt his neck and Jay really didn’t play that well, anyway, finishing 22-of-44 for 260 yards, two picks, one score and a queasy feeling that he’ll have no excuse for skipping a trip to his in-laws in January.

This was a blah game, a bad game, a dumb game and a costly game.  The Bears beat the Vikings, 28-10, just two weeks ago in Chicago but seemed to have forgotten all about that.  It was basically the usual thing for Chicago: no offensive rhythm, no commitment to the running game, shoddy blocking, stupid penalties, no boost from the return game, no threat from the tight ends, and a defense that played well but didn’t score which means it didn’t play well enough.  That’s how it is in Chicago.

Basically it came down to this: the two best players in this game were Peterson for the Vikings and Marshall for the Bears who finished with ten catches for 160 yards and the one score.  Marshall’s efforts were impressive but Peterson’s set the pace and Cutler’s two interceptions proved too costly to overcome.  Oh yeah, and Jeffrey dropped a TD pass late in the third.  It hit him on the hands.  And Devin Hester dropped a certain TD late in the fourth.  If those guys had held on, Cutler’s mistakes  (and everyone else’s) probably would have been forgiven, if not forgotten.

Now the Bears are watching the playoff train pull away from the station and know they have to chase it but not before they tie there shoes, tuck in their shirt, check their watch and kiss the puppy.  It’s December and when you’re 8-4 and in second place you have to chase that train half-naked and screaming.  It’s not called panic, it’s called urgency.  It’s called facing the worst quarterback in football, Christian Ponder, and forcing him into mistakes.  If not, you’re suddenly 8-5 with the Packers coming to town which means the next time we talk you’re almost certainly going to be 8-6.

To the Vikes’ credit they didn’t put Ponder in position to make many mistakes as he only threw 17 passes, completing 11, and his one interception was on a meaningless heave right before halftime.   So let’s get this straight: Peterson was pedestrian after the first quarter, really after his first run, Ponder was impotent for the entire 60 minutes and still the Bears looked like they were in quicksand.

What happens when you step in quicksand?  You die slowly.

The Bears are 8-5 and Aaron Rodgers and friends are on deck and it will be tough to find a human being in Cook County who really thinks the Meritocrats of the Midway will be able to do anything to stop this slide which has seen them go from a Super Bowl contender into an honorable mention in the Johnny Football sweepstakes.

December is shaping up to be cold, friendless and fart-filled.  It’s a month with missing mittens and hissing kittens.  It’s what we saw coming but couldn’t stop.  It’s a callous calendar that laughs and winks while slowly shutting the door.  –TK

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