Following his team’s 28-10 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was asked during his post-game press conference what the turning point in the game was in his mind. Frazier didn’t identify one moment where the game turned around, and instead spoke broadly about how the game unfolded.
After a day reflecting on the game, I agree with Frazier that it’s hard to define a moment that changed the course of the game. So rather than hyper-analyze a moment or two that contributed to Sunday’s outcome, let’s take a look at five moments in the game that shaped what turned out to be the Vikings 5th loss of the season.
Matt Forte fumbles, Chad Greenway recovers (13:12, 1st quarter)
The very first moments of the game were not great for the Vikings. QB Christian Ponder was sacked on the first play of the game and the Vikings went 3-and-out. But it looked as if early momentum would swing back to the Vikings when Bears RB Matt Forte fumbled on Chicago’s first offensive snap. Chad Greenway recovered the fumble, and the Vikings offense set up shop on the Bears 28.
Chicago dodged a bullet, though, and forced the Vikings to bring Blair Walsh on the field for a 40-yard FG after just three plays. The rookie kicker converted and the Vikings led 3-0, but it was a “win” for the Bears because they didn’t allow a TD after the Vikings started with such great field position.
Adrian Peterson fumbles, Charles Tillman recovers (10:13, 1st quarter)
Just moments after the Forte fumble, the Vikings returned the favor. And the Bears were able to do what the Vikings could not – they turned it into a TD. Peterson took a handoff on the Vikings first play following a Bears 3-and-out after the Walsh FG, and he was tackled by Bears LB Nick Roach. Peterson fumbled the ball, and Bears CB Charles Tillman fell on it, giving the Bears offense good field position at the Minnesota 34.
Six plays later, RB Michael Bush plunged into the end zone for a 1-yard TD, and the Robbie Gould PAT gave the Bears a 7-3 lead.
Defensive pass interference called against Antoine Winfield in end zone (4:17, 2nd quarter)
Leading 10-3 late in the 2nd quarter, the Bears were driving and had a 1st-and-10 from the Minnesota 25. Jay Cutler dropped back to pass and had no one open, so he escaped the pocket to buy more time. After surveying the field and still seeing no one open, he rifled a pass toward WR Brandon Marshall, who was covered by CB Antoine Winfield. As if he were playing basketball, Marshall posted up on the shorter Winfield and made a play for the ball. The nearest official threw a flag for what appeared to be offensive pass interference. But the call went against Winfield, and the Bears were set up with a 1st-and-goal from the 1.
On the Bears next play, Bush once again plunged in for a 1-yard score, and then Chicago ran a fake Pat to score a 2-point conversion and take an 18-3 lead.
Jay Cutler 13-yard TD pass to TE Matt Spaeth – reviewed and upheld (1:55, 2nd quarter)
Vikings QB Christian Ponder was intercepted by Bears S Chris Conte, and it didn’t take Chicago long to turn the Vikings second turnover of the game into another TD.
On the Bears first play from scrimmage after the INT, Cutler found TE and former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher Matt Spaeth in the corner of the end zone for a 13-yard TD. After catching the ball, Spaeth fell to the ground and was out of bounds. The call on the field was a TD, but the play was reviewed. After review, the officials upheld the original ruling, and after another Gould Pat the Bears led 25-3.
Matt Forte fumbles, Mistral Raymond recovers and returns 52 yards for a TD – play is overturned (6:39, 3rd quarter)
The Vikings had just scored a TD on a Ponder-to-Kyle Rudolph 2-yard connection, making the score 25-10. On their ensuing possession, the Bears were driving and were at midfield. Forte took a handoff and was stopped by a group of Vikings, and then fumbled on his way to the ground after being bent back awkwardly. Vikings S Mistral Raymond wisely scooped up the ball and sprinted 52 yards to the end zone, where the officials ruled the play a TD. After review, though, the play was overturned and the Bears retained possession.
Four plays later, Gould salvaged the drive with a 46-yard FG, increasing the Bears lead to 28-10. The series of plays represented a 10-point swing in which the Vikings could trailed by just 8 points early in the 2nd half but instead wound up trailing by 18 points.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Blair Walsh, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, Leslie Frazier, Mistral Raymond
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The bad news is the Vikings fell another game behind the division lead thanks to their loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday. With that loss, the Vikings now sit at 6-5, and with their win the Bears jump to 8-3. A two-game lead with five to play is nice for Chicago, but it’s not comfortable. Three of their remaining games are against division opponents, including a December 9 game at Mall of America Field. The Vikings pre-season goal of winning the NFC North is still attainable, and there’s no reason their sights should be focused on anything else.
If the Vikings are unable to catch the Bears and capture the NFC North title, they’ll hope to fall back on a Wild Card berth. And that’s where the good news comes in. The Vikings lost a game this week, but they did not lose any ground in the Wild Card race. Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle and Tampa Bay all lost on Sunday as well. Of those teams, only Green Bay (7-4) has more wins than the Vikings. The Vikings do lose the three-way tie-breaker, but there is plenty of time to overcome that with five more games on the dockett.
There’s a lot to breakdown when looking at the NFC playoff picture, but the bottom line is the Vikings must focus on winning their next game. And that next game is against a division rival and another team battling for playoff positioning – the Green Bay Packers.
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Soldier Field is a tough place to play for opposing teams, and poor execution combined with plenty of miscues does not help the visitor’s cause in trying to take down the Chicago Bears in their own house. The Vikings, who turned the ball over three times and executed poorly in crucial situations, are the latest to illustrate that point in a 28-10 loss Sunday in the Windy City.
After opening the game with a 3-and-out, the Vikings fortunes took an early turn-for-the-better when RB Matt Forte lost a fumble on Chicago’s first offensive snap of the game. The Vikings were not able to cash in with a TD, but Blair Walsh salvaged the scoring chance with a 40-yard FG. From that point on, though, it would be all Chicago Bears.
Adrian Peterson lost a fumble on the Vikings next series and Christian Ponder was intercepted later in the 2nd quarter. Making the bad news even worse for the Vikings was the fact that Chicago turned both turnovers into TDs and enjoyed a 25-3 lead at halftime.
The Vikings had a brief moment of optimism early in the 3rd quarter thanks to sloppy play from the Bears. CB Antoine Winfield intercepted Bears QB Jay Cutler, and the Vikings scored a TD five plays later when Ponder found TE Kyle Rudolph for a 2-yard score. On the seventh play of the ensuing Bears series, Vikings S Mistral Raymond picked up an apparent Forte fumble and returned it 52 yards for a TD. At that moment, the Vikings were on the comeback trail. But after review, the officials took the Vikings TD away, and Chicago responded four plays later with a FG to extend their lead to 28-10.
That would wind up being the Bears winning margin, as the teams exchanged a series of punts and the Vikings lost another fumble over the remaining quarter-and-a-half. Peterson wound up rushing for 108 yards – his 5th consecutive 100-yard game – on 18 attempts and rookie WR Jarius Wright led the team in receptions with 7 grabs for 49 yards. Those were the only bright spots in a day where the Vikings couldn’t overcome miscues.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Christian Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, Mistral Raymond
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