Season over: Bears fall apart in second-half collapse against Vikings
|Sunday, January 9, 2022, 5:04 PM- -|
MINNEAPOLIS – If this was indeed the last game of Matt Nagy's tenure, it went about as expected. After posting a 12-4 record in 2018 and winning the NFC North in his first season, Nagy has failed to finish above .500 since, including his (6-11) mark this season. Across from him was another head coach in Mike Zimmer, who may be out of a job also after his Minnesota Vikings finished the season (8-9) to miss the playoffs for a second straight season.
Despite neither team having much of anything to play for on Sunday, you have to give both coaches a ton of credit for staying focused and trying to win a game. For the Bears, it was a tale of two halves as they dominated the Vikings in the first half despite leaving a couple of opportunities on the board by going for it on fourth down.
The second half was a completely different story, with Kirk Cousins not only throwing for three second-half touchdowns, but also close to 200 yards in the second half to lead the Vikings to come from behind 31-17 victory. With Andy Dalton making the start in what could be his final game with the Bears, the veteran QB put together a pretty good game tossing for 325 yards to go with one score and two interceptions.
With Khalil Herbert returning the opening kick off to nearly the 40-yard line, Dalton wasted no time finding his favorite target in Darnell Mooney for a quick first down into Minnesota territory. Mooney hauled in a second big completion later in the drive to move the ball near the redzone before the drive stalled out, with Cairo Santos hitting a 43-yard field goal and early 3-0 lead.
For the Vikings, it was a long and dismal first half where the Vikings struggled to move the ball accumulating just 22 yards on their first four possessions, which all ended in punts. Chicago had a much easier time moving the ball, getting the ball inside Vikings territory on all five of their first-half possessions.
Following their field goal to open the game, Chicago left at a minimum of six points on the board, electing to go for it on fourth instead of kicking a field goal as the game remained 3-0. Chicago elected to take the points later in the second quarter as Santos knocked home a 46-yard field goal to push the lead to 6-0. With the first half winding down, Chicago was looking to put some distance between them and the Vikings as the offense was back out looking for more.
Needing nine plays to move the ball 67 yards, the Bears took less than three minutes to score the game's first touchdown. A few nice runs by David Montgomery and Herbert got the drive started before Dalton found Demiere Byrd for a first down. Byrd hauled in a second pass a few plays later, as did Marquise Goodwin, and Chicago was within striking distance. The Bears capped off their drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Damien Williams to double their lead 12-0. Dalton would find Allen Robinson for the two-point Conversation as the Bears were in control 14-0.
Minnesota waited nearly 30 minutes to find the scoreboard, but a series of nice passes from Cousins to Justin Jefferson, Ihmir Smith-Marssette, and K.J. Osborn set things up for the 36 yard Greg Joseph field goal to make things 14-3 at the half. Despite what was mostly a one-sided half, that late score for the Vikings seemed to be the momentum swing they needed as they looked like a different team in the second half.
Minnesota got the ball first to start the second half and used a 25 yard run from Dalvin Cook to set things up for the offense. Cousins took care of things from there, finding Smith-Marsette for the 44-yard touchdown for his first of the game. Smith-Marsette hauled in three catches for 103 yards on the day as that was his first career 100-yard game.
The Bears responded with a great opening drive to their second half after that touchdown, going 59 yards on 10 plays. Montgomery played a significant role in that drive, as did the 20-yard completion to Cole Kmet. Several running plays by Montgomery moved the ball inside the 10, but once again, the Bears went for it on fourth down only to be turned away again.
After a quick three and out, Chicago got the ball back and saw Dalton immediately find Kmet for close to 20 yards again. Chicago wasn't able to move the ball much further after that, but Santos made sure to put them on the board with a 42-yard field goal to put the Bears in front 17-10. Unfortunately, that would be the last of the Bears points as the final quarter belonged to the Vikings.
Not only did Minnesota answer that field goal with a touchdown, but they did so by moving the ball 75 yards and needing just six plays to do it. Smith-Marsette made the first of the big plays as his 19-yard reception moved the ball near midfield. Following a short pass to C.J. Ham and a short run by Dalvin Cook, Minnesota benefitted from busted coverage as Eddie Jackson let Jefferson get behind him for the 45-yard score to tie things up 17-17.
With momentum on the Vikings side, Minnesota forced a quick three and out and immediately returned to their offensive attack. Despite going 87 yards, Minnesota needed just six plays to move the ball that far taking less than three minutes off the clock. Cook fought for every bit of the yards he earned, but he set things up for the passing game where Cousins found Jefferson hauled in a 26-yard strike near midfield.
Alexander Mattison earned a tough five-yard scamper before Cook burst out his longest run of the day for 29 yards moving the ball to the Bears 21. One play later, it was Cousins going to the air again, finding Osborn for 21 yards for his third TD pass of the second half to give the Vikings their first lead of the day 24-17.
In desperate need of some points in a hurry, Dalton was working off a short passing game to keep the ball moving and staying in rhythm. Unfortunately, the Bears needed a big play if they wanted to get things done, and that is precisely what happened. However, the big play was for the Vikings as Dalton was looking for Dazz Newsome only to have Patrick Peterson come away with an interception and take it 66 yards to the house, putting Minnesota up 31-17.
That was the backbreaker the Bears didn't need as they were unable to recover from that as Dalton threw an interception on his next possession before turning it over on downs on their final drive ending the Bears season 31-17. Despite the loss, the Bears had some excellent performances, with Mooney leading all receivers with 126 yards as he surpassed the 1000 yard plateau.
Montgomery led the team with 70 yards rushing while Kmet and Byrd chipped in with 48 and 47 yards receiving. For the Vikings, Cousins completed just 14 of his 22 passes, but made them count as he tossed for 250 yards and three scores. Cook led all rushers with 79 yards on 5.6 YPC, with Jefferson and Smith-Marsette coming away with 107 yards and 103 yards apiece.