- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Trailing by 14 early in the fourth quarter, the Chicago Bears trudged out for another series that no one seemed particularly excited to start.

Jay Cutler took care of that quickly, lofting a screen pass right into the arms of Minnesota Vikings defensive end Justin Trattou.

Teddy Bridgewater leaped into the end zone a few plays later, and the Bears had the dispirited look of a team that just wants this season to end.

Cutler was sacked five times and Bridgewater tore up the Bears defense with four touchdown passes and another on the ground in Minnesota’s 38-17 victory on Sunday.

Cutler was 26 for 37 for 231 yards with two touchdowns, a fumble and an interception for the Bears (5-9), who have lost three straight following an inspired Thanksgiving night victory at Lambeau Field that had thrust them into playoff contention.

“It’s tough. I know the locker room is down,” Cutler said. “We’ll find out what we have in the locker room, who is going to fight and who is going to try to finish this out the right way the next two games.”

Bridgewater was nearly perfect for the Vikings (9-5), completing 17 of 20 passes for 231 yards to help them overcome a quiet day from Adrian Peterson. The NFL’s leading rusher had 63 yards on 18 carries while dealing with a sprained left ankle.

Alshon Jeffery caught a 10-yard touchdown from Cutler in the second quarter, but left the game in the third with a hamstring injury and did not return. The Bears allowed the Vikings to convert 8 of their 12 third downs, only sacked Bridgewater once and were not able to take advantage of a couple of big plays on special teams.

Most expected the Bears to have a rough season in coach John Fox’s first season, but that victory over the Packers that spoiled a halftime ceremony honoring Brett Favre had them at 5-6 and in the thick of the playoff chase in the muddled NFC.

They have followed that with close home losses to the 49ers and Redskins and were thoroughly dominated on both sides of the ball against the Vikings on Sunday, leading Fox to lament the team’s lack of improvement over the past month.

“We’re going to keep marching forward and find guys we think can be part of our core moving forward,” Fox said.

Behind Bridgewater’s poised play, the Vikings took a 17-7 lead at halftime when Fox decided to roll the dice. They surprised the Vikings with an onside kick that they recovered and appeared to be well positioned to get right back into the game.

But Brian Robison beat right tackle Kyle Long, stripped Cutler on a sack and recovered the fumble to take all the momentum away from the Bears.

Bridgewater hit Stefon Diggs on a 33-yard catch-and-run for a score on the ensuing drive, giving Minnesota a 24-7 lead, and the Vikings never looked back.

“We squandered that one,” Cutler said. “If we drive down there and put a score up we’re right back in the ballgame. It’s unfortunate.”

Cutler was under siege for most of the game, with rookie Danielle Hunter and Robison leading the charge.

Even without their top three defenders - defensive tackle Linval Joseph, linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith - the Vikings controlled the game to move closer to a playoff berth in the NFC.

“When you want something, you go take it, and right now nobody is really trying to take it,” defensive end Pernell McPhee said.

“Everybody’s just trying to fill it out. And me and everybody else have got to look ourselves in the mirror and point at ourselves. We can’t point at each other. What could we (have done) better to help our team win? That’s what it’s all about.”

NOTES: The Bears were swept by the Vikings for the first time since 2007. … Matt Forte finished with eight carries for 47 yards and six catches for 57 yards, including a 4-yard TD in the fourth quarter. … Deonte Thompson returned five kicks for 153 yards, including a 49-yarder to open the game. … Diggs, the Vikings rookie WR, had three catches for 55 yards and two TDs. … Robbie Gould, who had missed six kicks over the previous seven games, hit a 51-yard field goal in the third quarter.

___

Online:

AP NFL website: https://www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http:/McKi/www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide